At least four people died over the Labor Day weekend due to dangerous conditions in the Atlantic Ocean along the Jersey Shore, while one man narrowly escaped a riptide with the help of a Marine veteran.
On Sunday afternoon, police received a call about five swimmers in distress off the 6th Avenue Beach in Belmar, with one 42-year-old male swimmer found unresponsive. He was later taken to the hospital where he sadly passed away.
In Beach Haven, another tragedy occurred when a group of swimmers and a 22-year-old man from the Dominican Republic were trapped in a riptide. Lifeguards created a human chain to pull out the submerged swimmers, but the man later died in the hospital.
Later that day, a call was made to police in Seaside Park about six swimmers caught in rough waves. The US Coast Guard arrived to help with the rescue effort and managed to find five of the six swimmers, while one 31-year-old man remains missing.
Amid the chaos, one man managed to escape tragedy thanks to the selfless act of a Marine veteran. Stephen Houser, a 35-year-old, and his family were on Long Beach Island when they spotted a swimmer, Gabe McCabe, struggling in the Atlantic Ocean.
The daring footage shows people swimming away from the riptide as Houser paddled toward McCabe, who tried to yell for help as another swimmer attempted to keep him afloat. McCabe then grasped onto the veteran’s board and they both rode several waves back to shore.
“It f–king whipped me around,” said McCabe after catching his breath.
“You’re alright. You’re alright,” Houser said in response.
The veteran told local news outlets that he was glad he was near McCabe when the riptide hit and believes that anyone in his position would have done the same.
“I was just in the right place at the right time,” Houser said. “I’m just happy to have helped him, and I think anybody in my situation would have done the same thing.”
Despite the selfless act of Houser, authorities are still warning beachgoers to be aware of the potential dangers of swimming in the ocean. They are also urging people to embrace the three Rs: Recognize the danger, Retreat from the danger, and submit a Rescue plan.