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Swimmer drowns, SUV strikes sunbather in Long Beach

Police, ocean rescue, and scuba divers search for

Police, ocean rescue, and scuba divers search for a missing swimmer. The 19-year-old man officials presumed drowned was a student at CUNY’s Baruch College in Manhattan, friends said. (May 26, 2010)

Read more about the Atlantic Beach drowning. Credit: Kevin P Coughlin

A Brooklyn teen likely drowned off the coast of Long Beach Wednesday and a sunbather was critically injured after a city police officer driving along the beach struck the man, a city official said.

Rip currents swept at least a dozen swimmers into the surf Wednesday, local authorities said.

The 19-year-old swimmer, who friends said was a student at CUNY's Baruch College in Manhattan, was last seen some 100 feet from the beach in the water beyond a jetty.

Rescue crews answered a call for swimmers in distress between Edwards and Riverside boulevards around 1:50 p.m., said Scott Kemins, the city's fire department chief.

Emergency responders pulled from the rough water two of the young man's friends, who told authorities that the young man had "mentioned to them that he didn't know how to swim," said city manager Charles Theofan.

The suspected drowning victim's name was not released Wednesday.

"Last time he was seen, unfortunately, he was floating face down in the water," Kemins said. "An experienced swimmer would easily get in trouble in that kind of water."

Fire rescue and police pulled about 10 people from the water Wednesday, according to Kemins, while surfers and others helped several more.

The missing teen's friends said the group had initially entered the water about knee-deep, but the strong current off the jetty soon sucked them out to sea, Theofan said.

Beachgoer Nelo Asadi, of Flushing, Queens, said she was on the sand when she heard screams for help, and then saw "a guy and a girl" being plucked from the ocean.

Joe Son, 22, of Jamaica, Queens, a friend of the rescued swimmers, said the girl suffered cuts from the rocks.

The search for the young man's body was called off in the afternoon because the water was too rough, Theofan said.

The two accidents came amid a busy day for Long Beach emergency personnel as steamy weather drove swimmers and surfers to the beach and into the water ahead of the beach's official opening this weekend.

During one rescue, a Long Beach police officer responding to a call about a swimmer in distress ran his police SUV over a sunbather on the beach, city officials said.

The victim, Marshall Starkman, 43, suffered a broken spine and was taken by helicopter to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, said City Manager Charles Theofan.

According to Theofan, police officer Paul DeMarco struck Starkman as he sat in a lounge chair around noon near Laurelton Boulevard.

DeMarco could not be reached Wednesday. DeMarco declined to make any official statements Westerday, according to Theofan.

Starkman, interviewed at NUMC, said he was in "a lot of pain. I'm alive, but a lot of pain."

He described the accident, saying, "I was literally just sitting on my chaise lounge on the beach" while talking on the phone and playing the radio.

"Honestly, it hit me out of the blue," he said, adding that he heard no sirens or horn."The only thing I can remember is getting hit. Not knowing what it was. Realizing that I'm alive."

Starman, who said he had no information yet from doctors about his condition, recalled sitting far back from the beach, closer to the boardwalk, but near other people. "There were people all around me," he said.

The city asked the Nassau County police accident investigation unit to conduct an independent probe, Theofan said.

For Rob Catell, a frequent beachgoer, Wednesday's likely drowning was an all too common seasonal occurrence. "It's the same thing that happens every year," Catell said as he watched the rescue.

In July 2008, three swimmers died in Long Beach over a two-day period. In June 2005, a Flushing teen, 15, drowned while swimming with friends near Long Beach Boulevard.

Swimming is not allowed in Long Beach when beaches are closed, so those who enter the water do so at their own risk, Theofan said. He said police will issue summonses to those caught swimming before the official beach season opens Saturday and lifeguards are assigned to posts.

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