2 Teens Drown in New York Waterway Known for Strong Currents, Police Say

Two 13-year-old boys drowned on Friday after slipping into Jamaica Bay off a sandbar, the police said. With summer approaching and more people being drawn to the water, the deaths were a reminder of the danger posed by the bay’s strong currents and steep drop-offs.

The boys were on the sandbar at around 11:30 a.m. when they went into the water near the North Channel Bridge in Queens, the police said. When they did not resurface, someone called 911 and a rescue effort began, the police said.

After a search that involved police divers and helicopters and Fire Department emergency workers, both teenagers were recovered from the water and taken to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, where they were pronounced dead, the police said. Their names were not released pending notification of their families.

The area where the boys drowned is within Gateway National Recreation Area, a vast federal park that extends from Sandy Hook in New Jersey to Jamaica Bay and Staten Island in New York.

A park spokeswoman, Daphne Yun, said that the boys were swimming near the bridge’s parking lot in “an unprotected, non-lifeguarded area” when they went under. “Visitors are reminded to swim only when lifeguards are present,” she added.

Signs in the area, noting the strong currents and sudden drop-offs, indicate that wading and swimming are prohibited and that conditions there have contributed to drownings.

In August 2019, Maintain Odozi, 15, drowned after going swimming with friends in a part of the bay reserved for kayaks and canoes. He was one of seven people to drown in the waters near the Rockaway Peninsula in a three-month span. Four, including Maintain, were teenagers.

In July 2000, an 11-year-old boy drowned after he and another boy jumped into an area of the bay where swimming was not allowed. In August 1963, a woman and a 10-year-old boy drowned while swimming in different parts of the bay. And later that year, a swimmer and a man trying to save him drowned in the bay’s Little Egg Marsh area.

The drop-offs can be especially hazardous. In July 1973, two sisters, 11 and 13, drowned near the southern part of Broad Channel Island after wading out into shallow, low-tide waters and stepping off an underwater shelf into what the police said was 30 feet of water.

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