Authorities have recovered the body of one of the two teenage swimmers who went under after struggling in the Atlantic City surf during an outing with friends last week.
The body of Kaliyah Hand, 16, was recovered in Margate on Monday morning. Atlantic City police said. An autopsy confirmed her identity.
Fog and choppy waters had forced crews on Friday to call off the search for Hand, of Atlantic City, and Ramon Quinn, 15, of Pleasantville, N.J.
“The weather conditions are not very good. The surf and the ocean are extremely rough and choppy,” Sgt. Kevin Fair, a spokesman for the Atlantic City Police Department, said Friday.
A Margate officer found Hand’s body just after 5 a.m. Monday on the beach off Jefferson Avenue.
Rip currents in Belmar, meanwhile, took the life of one girl and left her cousin on life support after the two were found floating face-down Thursday at a beach where lifeguards were not on duty. Both were described as elementary school students.
In Atlantic City, family members said Quinn tried to save Hand as she was pulled from the shore by a rip current, funnels of rapidly seaward-moving water with speeds up to 8 feet per second that result from the interactions of waves, currents, and surf conditions. He, too, was swept away in the rough waters, police said.
“That little guy was a hero. He will always be a hero in my book. It’s a tragedy,” Hand’s father, Dirk Spence, told the Atlantic City Press.
Authorities were alerted about 7 p.m. Thursday that two beach goers had been struggling and gone under off the Kentucky Avenue beach. The swimmers were with a group of friends and had entered the water after the beach patrol went off duty at 6 p.m., authorities said.
Fair said rescuers arrived within minutes after 911 calls began pouring in for assistance. Two officers entered the water, but the swimmers were never spotted, he said.
A search was conducted in the water, and by air and land, to locate the teenagers, Fair said. By nightfall, the operation became a recovery effort and both were presumed drowned, he said.
Nearly two dozen family members were at the scene Friday as first responders searched for the teenagers. The family members hugged and wept. Spence told the Press that he was fighting back his emotions about his daughter, who has several siblings.
Family members embrace, cry. It's quiet and somber on this section of the beach. Press conference ended, officials staying with family pic.twitter.com/pukajkSpwL
— Erin Serpico (@ACPressSerpico) June 16, 2017
“The only thing I want now is the sea to give her back,” Spence said.
Hand’s grandmother Shirdine Stewart described her granddaughter as a typical teenager who had plenty of friends and loved to take selfies.
“She just loved life. She loved the beach,” Stewart told a crowd of reporters.
Quinn was selfless, said his stepfather, Will Black of Atlantic City.
“He risked his life to save a young girl. That’s the kind of person he is,” Black said.
— Edward Lea (@acpresslea) June 16, 2017
Mayor Don Guardian and other city officials were at the beach Friday to support the families. The mayor promised that the search would continue until both teens’ bodies were located. Atlantic City police chaplains were assisting the families.
Sad day for Atlantic City as two young lives are lost due to ocean rip currents.
— Donald Guardian (@ACMayorDonGuard) June 16, 2017
Fair said the search was continuing along the shoreline.
Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty told the Associated Press that a 13-year-old died in the incident there. The girl’s 12-year-cousin remained on life support Friday, he said.
The borough’s lifeguards were to begin full-time staffing of the beaches Monday, once school let out for the summer and students were available to work as lifeguards, the mayor said. Several were on the beach Thursday, although they had left by the time the girls went into the water.
“They’re just sweet girls who are willing to help other children,” Belmar School Superintendent David R. Hallman said. “So it’s just a difficult time right now.”
According to a report in January from the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, 39 people have drowned since 1998 as result of rip currents at New Jersey and Delaware beaches.
The majority of the drownings, 22, occurred between 5 and 7 p.m., when lifeguards tend to be off duty. The weather service posts rip-current forecasts, and guarded beaches usually provide ample warning of the presence of rip currents.