A man who drowned Wednesday afternoon off the coast of Wildwood became the third person to die in the water in the last two weeks at the Cape May County beach destination, authorities said.
Wildwood police received a 911 call around 5:20 for a report of a swimmer in distress in the area of Youngs Avenue and the beach.
At the scene, police and firefighters saw several people rendering aid to a swimmer who had been pulled from the water. Eyewitnesses told authorities that the man was found unconscious and floating in the water about 100 yards from the shore.
Emergency responders attempted life-saving measures at the scene, but the man was pronounced dead. He was later identified as 45-year-old Williams Pathy of Hillsdale.
Investigators learned that another swimmer had been rescued from the water by a Good Samaritan and was treated at the scene.
Police reminded beachgoers only to swimmer only to get in the water if a lifeguard is present, but did not confirm whether the beach had been attended by a lifeguard in Wednesday’s incident.
On Tuesday afternoon, a 53-year-old man drowned off the coast of Wildwood Crest at a beach in the area of Syracuse Road. Other swimmers had noticed the man was unconscious in the water and pulled him to shore. The man was later identified as Joel Green, of Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
On June 1, a 19-year-old man drowned off the coast of Wildwood near the beach at East Andrews Avenue. The victim, identified as Alfred Williams, of Drexel Hill, was among a group of four swimmers who were in distress.One swimmer made it back to shore and two others were rescued by responding crews, but Williams could not be found and was presumed to have drowned as the rescue effort became a recovery.
Cape May County has had difficulty hiring lifeguards in recent years, prompting discussion about the possibility of beach closures this summer.
Marty Franco, captain of the Cape May Beach Patrol, told NJ 101.5 in May that pay disparity for lifeguards at different shore points is having an effect on hiring in certain towns.
In some popular towns, including Avalon and Stone Harbor, the pay for new lifeguards last year was $20 per hour. In Cape May, the rate was just more than $12 per hour for a starting guard. In Asbury Park, for comparison, rookie lifeguards earn $14 per hour.
Similar problems have affected beaches and swimming pools elsewhere in the region and across the country.
Low staffing levels in Cape May resulted in some beach closures last year, and Franco said that may happen again this year.
The Wildwood Beach Patrol said daily lifeguarding at beaches begin Saturday.