WILDWOOD, N.J. (CBS) — Authorities have suspended the search for a missing swimmer in Cape May County. Two other swimmers were rescued on Tuesday.
All day long, people have asked if authorities ever found the missing swimmer. One woman told Eyewitness News that she kept waking up in the middle of the night hoping that the swimmer would surface, but he never did.Viewing Underway For Fallen Firefighter Lt. Sean Williamson In South Philadelphia: 'It's A Terrible Tragedy'
After a desperate, hours-long search by helicopter and by boat, authorities called off the search for the missing swimmer in Wildwood.
The swimmer, a man in his early 20s, is presumed dead.
“It was heartbreaking to see a young man out swimming in the ocean where there’s no lifeguards and not coming back to his family,” said beachgoer Pat Street.
The search began around 4 p.m. Tuesday afternoon after a bystander called 911 saying that he spotted two swimmers struggling in the water.
“He reported a swimmer approximately 200 yards out, was quickly spotted. Another male swimmer was approximately 125 yards out,” Wildwood Fire Chief Ernie Troiano III said.
Wildwood firefighters split up into two teams and pulled the swimmers to safety.
A third swimmer got out on his own.
But authorities never had a visual on the fourth swimmer.READ MORE: Phillies' Bryce Harper Out Indefinitely With Broken Thumb After Being Hit By Pitch In 4-2 Win Over Padres
“One of the victims that was rescued did say his friend was in front of him,” Troiano III said. “He was in a breaker and saw him and he didn’t see him after that.”
Authorities say the swimmer likely got caught in a rip current.
Troiano III says if it happens to you, don’t fight the current.
“The best thing to do is remain calm, swim parallel to the beach you’ll get yourself out of the rip and you can swim back to shore,” he said.
Starting in mid-June, lifeguards in Wildwood will be on duty seven days a week, but until then, they’re only guarding the beach on weekends.
The case of the missing swimmer, a cautionary tale on the importance of waiting until lifeguards are on duty.
“This is obviously a tragic event. Our thoughts and prayers are with the individual’s family,” Troiano III said. “But I would like to hope that maybe some individuals will listen to this message. Let’s not let his death be in vain. Let’s learn from this, and don’t enter the water if it’s unguarded.”
The swimmer has not been identified at this time.
Wildwood Beach Patrol will be on duty June 4 and June 5 and June 11 and June 12 from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Beginning June 23, there will be limited daily lifeguard coverage.
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Here are the hours and locations that lifeguards will be on duty at the beach in @citywildwoodnj. Authorities are urging beachgoers not to swim at the beach when there are no lifeguards, no matter how good of a swimmer you are. If you do go in the water, only go up to your knees. pic.twitter.com/0YZq1aldf7
— Madeleine Wright (@MWrightReports) June 1, 2022
CBS3’s Jan Carabeo and Madeleine Wright contributed to this report.