By MADDY VITALE
The search continues for a Clementon, N.J. man who rescued two family members in Ocean City’s Great Egg Harbor inlet Sunday night, only to disappear in the rough waters.
Ocean City Beach Patrol and the U.S. Coast Guard searched again through Monday to try and locate 24-year-old Jabed Ikbal into.
Beach Patrol Chief Mark Jamieson said in a phone interview Monday afternoon that it has become a recovery, rather than rescue effort.
At 6 a.m. Monday members of the beach patrol began their day of assisting the U.S. Coast Guard with the search. The Ocean City Police Department and Ocean City Fire Department personnel also assisted.
“We are doing a mixture of visual from the shoreline, to see if there are any abnormalities in the water and we also have guards out on the water,” Jamieson said.
He noted that search and recovery are vital to the family of the lost swimmer.
“It is important to give the family closure,” he said.
Bathers, some swimmers, and others fished in the waters of the unprotected beach on the Great Egg Harbor Inlet just south of the Ocean City-Longport Bridge where Ikbal was last seen.
Authorities said Ikbal entered the water to assist two other family members who were in trouble. The two family members made it safely to the beach, but Ikbal was swept away by the current.
By 7:27 p.m. Sunday authorities received 911 calls for help.
“People need to swim only at guarded beaches and if they see someone in distress call 911,” Jamieson emphasized. “Too often, novice swimmers can get into a dangerous situation and everything happens too fast.”
He, along with other officials, continue to urge the public to only swim at guarded beaches and never after hours.
Tropical Storm Fay, which effected the area over the weekend, could have played a role in the rougher surf in the inlet – an area already known for stronger currents, officials said.
The search efforts have been hindered by the weather-related currents and the tides, officials said.
“The conditions were difficult. There was a lot of seaweed and it was murky,” Jamieson said of Sunday night’s initial search.
The tidal switch also occurred near the time Ikbal went missing from low to high tide, he said, adding to the strength of the currents.
Gina and Leroy Specht, of Bucks County, PA., and their three children, ages 3, 8, and 10, sat under a cabana at the north end inlet beach Monday afternoon.
The family spends a week in Ocean City every year. While they typically choose guarded beaches to spend time with their family, they noted it was too crowded Monday morning at the other adjacent Ocean City beaches, so they opted for the north end beach.
But they did not go in the water.
“We saw some of the search last night. We saw someone on a jet ski out looking,” Leroy Specht said. “We saw the Coast Guard and Beach Patrol walking on the beach.”
Gina Specht made it a point to say that the family known the importance of swimming at guarded beaches.
“This is the first time we are on an unguarded beach,” she said. “When we go to the guarded beaches, if the kids go in the water, we make sure they are within the flags and by a lifeguard stand. We are always with them.”
Fire Chief Jim Smith, who oversees the OCBP, said he can’t impress upon beachgoers enough, the importance of swimming at guarded beaches.
According to Smith, he believes there has not been a drowning at a guarded beach in Ocean City in the beach patrol’s 120 years in existence.
“Obviously, we want everyone at a guarded beach. It’s all about being at a guarded beach. Even after normal work hours we have some beaches with extended hours,” Smith added. “The lifeguards are there to keep people safe.”
Smith continued, “People need to be mindful, if they are not strong swimmers they should stay out of deep waters. Waves and currents can push you out into deeper waters.”
Emergency personnel will continue its search for Ikbal.
A list of guarded beaches can be found on the city’s website at www.ocnj.us.