A mother on vacation with her family in North Wildwood, New Jersey, has drowned after trying to save her three children from rough waters.
The family’s Sept. 29 beach trip turned into a tragedy around 3 p.m., according to a City of Wildwood Fire Department press release. The 49-year-old woman, who was not identified, noticed that her three kids, 8, 10, and 19, were struggling “in the breakers” at the 18th Avenue beach.
“The mother was calling out to them to come back,” Fire Chief Dominick J. McClain explained to NJ.com, “and when she saw they were having trouble, she jumped into the water.”
The woman was able to retrieve her two younger sons and carried them back to the safety of the shore. “It was not at all a beach day,” McClain said. “The water was very rough and the rip currents were very dangerous.”
Meanwhile, the 19-year-old daughter continued to struggle in the rough waters. Her mother went back in to help her but found herself equally helpless in turbulent rip currents.
First responders arrived and successfully retrieved the teen about 50 yards from shore. But the mother was located three times that distance from the shoreline, face down and unconscious.
Eyewitnesses Jonathan and Stacey Selepak shot cell phone footage as medics tried saving the woman. “Five cop cars, two rescue cars, and a whole bunch of people running toward the beach,” Jonathan told CBS Philadelphia. “I just saw them all converge into one area.”
Unfortunately, efforts to revive the woman at the scene were unsuccessful. She was rushed to Cape Regional Medical Center, where medics pronounced her dead around 5 p.m.
An additional tragedy, said McClain, was that the woman’s husband arrived on the beach at the moment his wife was being pulled from the water. He had been taking care of the couple’s other two children at Montego Bay Resort, where the family was staying during their vacation, while away from their home in Wernersville, Pennsylvania.
The rescued children were also taken to the hospital for evaluation and sustained no lasting injuries.
McClain says the mother’s actions likely saved her sons.
He told NJ.com that there were no lifeguards at the beach on Sept. 29, and there was only one other visitor at the same area by the shoreline.
The North Wildwood community responded to the heartbreaking incident by offering their support to the family, while town officials have reminded locals and visitors to avoid swimming at beaches where no lifeguards are present.
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