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Nov 17, 2017 10:38 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Village Creates An Ocean Rescue Team In Wake Of Drownings

A group of Southampton Village residents got together on November 13 to discuss forming a Village Ocean Rescue team. COURTESY OF JULIE FITZGERALD
Nov 27, 2017 11:35 AM

In September, the waters off Southampton were rough, with big waves and strong rip currents from the many hurricanes and low-pressure systems in the Atlantic Ocean.

Timothy Allen Osborne, 46, who was visiting Coopers Beach from Singapore, drowned on September 16 after he was caught in a rip current created by the active Atlantic basin. The lifeguards who typically watch over the beach were not on duty because they had already packed up for the season.

Lifeguards typically work only during the summer season in Southampton Village, leaving the beaches unprotected—but a group of concerned residents wants to change that.

Village officials are taking steps to form a volunteer ocean rescue team that could charge into the waters off regularly unprotected beaches, to ensure the safety of those who live in and visit the village.

Mr. Osborne was the second person to drown at the beach within a 15-month period. On June 24, 2016, Tom Surdyke, an 18-year-old West Point cadet from Missouri was visiting Coopers Beach and enjoying some down time when he got caught in a rip current. Just like Mr. Osborne, the lifeguards were not on duty, and Mr. Surdyke succumbed to the power of a rip current.

In the days following Mr. Osborne’s drowning, numerous other rip current rescues were made along the beaches in the village by local EMS members and police officers.

“People wondered where the lifeguards were,” Daniel Claud, 22, of Southampton Village said on Thursday. “If Southampton Village had an ocean rescue team, they would have been able to get there on time.”

Mr. Claud has been instrumental in getting the team formed, and already has experience working on an ocean rescue team in the Town of East Hampton.

The day after Mr. Osborne drowned, Mr. Claud was hanging out at Coopers Beach and ran into Ann Welker, a resident of North Sea, who later would be elected to the Southampton Town Board of Trustees.

The two of them spoke about the drowning and how it could have been prevented if the village had an ocean rescue team. Ms. Welker said she could get him in touch with a few people to help make it a reality. But Mr. Claud would be heading back to SUNY Oswego soon.

“I didn’t want Danny to go back to school feeling let down by his community,” Ms. Welker said. “So, I made a couple of phone calls.”

Ms. Welker said she called people like Southampton Village Mayor Michael Irving, Village Trustee Richard Yastrzemski, beach local Francis “Fran” Adamczeski and Jim Arnold from East Hampton Ocean Rescue, and the first meeting was set up just days after Mr. Osborne drowned.

According to Ms. Welker, East Hampton Ocean Rescue, a similar group that has been operating since 2003, is going to help guide Southampton Village through setting up its own ocean rescue team. In order to keep things manageable, Ms. Welker said, they are looking to cover the area from Shinnecock Inlet to Fowler Beach. Most of the area the team is looking to cover is not protected by lifeguards during the day.

In order to cover that area, Ms. Welker said, they are looking to have between 15 and 20 certified lifeguards by summer 2018.

Training is going to be a key part of getting an ocean rescue team set up, and according to Mr. Claud, the training can be a bit intense.

In East Hampton, Mr. Claud said, lifeguards are required to be ocean certified. He added that after Memorial Day weekend the lifeguards endure three weeks of training in the cold ocean waters and learn the basics of lifeguarding while also learning what their limits are, how to do certain rescues and how to get people out of the water without making things worse—like a spinal injury.

While the East Hampton Ocean Rescue team operates 365 days a year, the Southampton team will start out working only the shoulder seasons and summer.

“We have a long way to go,” Ms. Welker said. “We’re trying to start small and be smart about this so that it works.”

So far, the ocean rescue team has met three times, most recently on November 13. Members include surfers, lifeguards, EMS members and police officers.

“A lot of the individuals who have come out for these meetings are lifeguards from both Southampton Village and Southampton Town,” Julie Fitzgerald, Mayor Irving’s assistant, said in an email. “We’ve had tremendous support from East Hampton Town’s Volunteer Ocean Rescue who have been working with the committee to help set this up in Southampton Village.”

Mr. Claud said the day Mr. Osborne died, he was on South Main Street in Southampton Village when he saw multiple police cars driving toward the beach, so he followed them and wound up at Coopers Beach, where there were four or five police vehicles and the rescue squad. Since Mr. Claud was a member of the East Hampton Ocean Rescue team, he assisted as much as he could, but noted if Southampton had a team of its own, he would have gotten the page and could have helped out much sooner. Without one, he said, who knows how many more people will drown in the off seasons.

“Now’s the time to start an ocean rescue,” said Mr. Claud. “It’s coming one day so we may as well do it sooner than later.”

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Smart idea!
By MelissaA (54), Sag Harbor on Nov 17, 17 11:40 AM
1 member liked this comment
Terrific idea and way, way over due.
Thank You!
By all seasons (9), southampton on Nov 17, 17 1:47 PM
1 member liked this comment
Thanks to all involved!!!
By bigfresh (4655), north sea on Nov 17, 17 4:17 PM
““I didn’t want Danny to go back to school feeling let down by his community,” Ms. Welker said. “So, I made a couple of phone calls.”

Ms Welker is top-notch. Good person.
By even flow (1023), East Hampton on Nov 18, 17 7:11 AM
1 member liked this comment
What's the difference PW? A lot of the volunteers that would save your azz in as ocean emergency don't live in the village either.
By bigfresh (4655), north sea on Nov 18, 17 8:23 AM
2 members liked this comment
Is there a point here?
By bigfresh (4655), north sea on Nov 18, 17 9:02 AM
1 member liked this comment

Words of wisdom.. keep the organization simple and efficient and get some rip current signs up at the south hampton beaches ! If you dont have the resources I (EEOR) will donate them.

Good luck
By minarditraining.com (19), Easthampton on Nov 21, 17 8:13 AM
By minarditraining.com (19), Easthampton on Nov 21, 17 10:59 AM
So needed!
By sandydog21 (195), Southampton on Dec 4, 17 8:35 AM