Surfers react to a drowning Tuesday at Ditch Plains Beach...

Surfers react to a drowning Tuesday at Ditch Plains Beach in Montauk. Credit: Gordon M. Grant


The distraught father of a man who drowned Tuesday after being swept into deep ocean water at Ditch Plains Beach in Montauk said he was still trying to understand what happened to his son, the second of four boys, who was spending the summer as a bartender on the East End.

Reached at his home in Marysville, Washington, Chan Kitburi said of learning the news late Tuesday that his son, Benjamin Z. Kitburi, 31, had drowned: "I cannot process that thought, right now. I still cannot believe he is no longer here with us."

East Hampton Town Police said Kitburi, fiancee Persia Jensen, 26, and friend Jensen Turner, 32, all of Montauk, had gone to Ditch Plains Beach on Tuesday evening to have a picnic dinner, and then ventured into the notoriously rough surf at the beach known as a mecca for surfers. Police said lifeguards were on duty daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but said the trio wandered into the water around 7:30 p.m. — and that almost immediately things went wrong.

"The three were quickly pulled to deeper water and separated by rough conditions and a strong rip current," police said in a news release Wednesday.

Police said that while Jensen and Turner were able to fight the rip current and swim back to shore before collapsing on the beach, Kitburi was swept out into deeper waters and was found unconscious there by three surfers, who brought him back to shore, called 911 and immediately attempted lifesaving measures. Police said officers and volunteers from the Montauk Fire Department EMS responded to the scene at 7:34 p.m.

Police said Kitburi was taken by Montauk Fire Department EMS ambulance to Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, were he was pronounced dead.

Jensen also was taken to Stony Brook Southampton for evaluation, while Turner was evaluated at the scene by Montauk EMS, police said.

On Wednesday, Chan Kitburi said his son was the second of four boys and that he'd just recently traded text messages with Benjamin, a graduate of Lake Stevens High School north of Seattle. "He said he liked New York so much and that he was working as a bartender," Kitburi said. "He told me one time he'd like to be a comedian. He was very funny. He's one of the nice kids."

Kitburi said his son was a good swimmer and said that's what made the whole situation so much harder to understand. "I guess he never got caught in a swift current like that before," he said. "He was just there to spend the summer … Now, I'm trying to make arrangements to go there — and I don't even know what to do. It's that hard for me to understand."

The victim's mother, Tina Kitburi, reached by phone Wednesday, said he was born in British Columbia, went to elementary school in Maryland and high school in Washington state.

"He was a very soulful spirit, " she said of her son. "He loved his life in New York City. He was very happy to be there."

When she visited him in Manhattan "he always ran into people he knew," she said, "every time I visited."

"I'm very proud ," she said.

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