The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for a Queens man who went missing off the 15th Street Beach in Far Rockaway, Queens, after 3 a.m. Wednesday, officials said.
The Coast Guard said a "small group of people" were swimming in "waist high water" off Rockaway Point Boulevard when one person in that group failed to return to shore. But a New York Police Department spokesman said the man, identified as Haywood Patterson, 40, of Jamaica was in the water by himself when he called for help - and then simply disappeared.
Police said they received the 911 call at 3:21 a.m.
They said an eyewitness who was with Patterson at the time of the disappearance said the man had been drinking before he went into the water.
Rescue boat crews were sent from Coast Guard Sector New York and Sector Long Island Sound, one from Station New York and one from Station Jones Beach. A rescue helicopter from Air Station Atlantic City, N.J., also is on the scene, Coast Guard officials said.
The Coast Guard said a second helicopter crew from Air Station Cape Cod, Mass., and a rescue boat from Station Sandy Hook, N.J., also will be dispatched Wednesday morning to assist in the search.
The NYPD said it also had dispatched rescue divers to the scene before dawn, but they found nothing. The Nassau County Harbor Patrol also had dispatched a boat.
Officials said there have been at least three drownings in the waters off the Rockaways and Jones Beach in the last two weeks, as well as several big scares as bathers were pulled offshore by treacherous rip tides and rip currents.
During one weekend in July 2008, six bathers drowned in separate incidents off Jones Beach, Long Beach and Jacob Riis Park in the Rockaways.