A 24-year-old man drowned in the waters off Rockaway Beach on Friday afternoon — setting an ominous tone for what could be a dangerous Memorial Day weekend on the city’s lifeguard-less beaches.
The unidentified man was pulled from the waters off of Beach 91st Street just hours after Mayor Bill de Blasio detailed plans to open the city’s beaches for people to play on the sand, but also begged them to not go in the water.
A witness who shot cellphone video of first responders hauling the victim expressed fear that pleas to stay on land won’t be heard, and will lead to tragedy.
“Why are there no lifeguards? People are on the beach and allowed on the sand but not in the water. This is going to happen over and over,” the witness told The Post.
“If there were lifeguards, we wouldn’t have had to call in helicopters and fire trucks. People were freaked out, saying ‘Oh my gosh, there’s no one to help.’”
Cops said the unidentified man and at least one other person had been jumping into the water.
The man was pulled from the water around 2:50 p.m. and was rushed to St. John’s Hospital in critical condition, cops said.
He couldn’t be revived and was pronounced dead around 3:40 p.m., cops said.
The city traditionally starts staffing beaches with lifeguards on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend but isn’t doing so this year as part of a plan to enforce social distancing and prevent swimming, barbecues, volleyball games and other gatherings.
New York state beaches opened for swimming on Friday at limited capacities and with lifeguards in place.
City Hall spokeswoman Jane Meyer called the Rockaway Beach incident a “tragedy.”
“We urge all New Yorkers to stay out of the water –- lifeguards are not on duty and no one should be swimming. This is a matter of life and death,” she said.
De Blasio also tweeted: “We don’t want want to fence off the beaches but we will if we have to.”
Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Queens), whose district covers the area, told The Post that “the mayor and the parks commissioner need to come up with a real plan and soon” to ensure beach safety.
“When the weather gets nicer, people are going to flock to the beach and there’s nothing we can do about it,” he said.
“Every year, there’s drownings, and every year it usually could have been avoided.”
State Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island/Brooklyn) tweeted a message to de Blasio that said, “please, we are headed for tragedy. If we can’t have Lifeguards now, we need Fireboats to patrol.”
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