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Teen Killed In Rip Current At Ocean City Sparks Questions About Beach Safety

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Rick Ritter joined WJZ Eyewitness News in May 2014 as ...
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OCEAN CITY, Md. (WJZ) — Ocean City tragedy. A Montgomery County teen is dead after getting caught in a rip current.

Rick Ritter has more on the tragedy that comes just days before “Senior Week” celebrations.

This is the first drowning in Ocean City with lifeguards on duty in almost 10 years. Beach Patrol is educating the public to help prevent tragedy from striking again.

The silent summer danger surges through the waters of the Eastern Shore. The average person can’t spot it, and even the best of athletes struggle to break through it.

“It doesn’t matter what your skill level is, the ocean has a mind of its own,” said Jessica Waters, Ocean City communications manager.

Monday afternoon in Ocean City, three swimmers were swept out to sea by a rip current. Beach Patrol acted quickly to try and save the trio. Two were rescued, but 18-year-old Don Pen Soh Boma from Montgomery County was later pronounced dead.

His classmates are stunned.

“You hear about that stuff on the news, but you never think it would happen to someone close to you,” one classmate said.

Beach Patrol says they initially had the 18-year-old on a buoy. But when they were bringing him to shore, he fell into the water. After that, it took 15 rescuers nearly an hour just to find the victim again.

“It’s very sad, very tragic. You often don’t think of it happening at the beach that you’re going to be at,” said Traci Herv, Ocean City visitor.

The tragedy sparks questions about what to do if it ever happens to you.

“I used to surf out here a lot and the rip currents get real strong,” said Orrie Vetra.

Lt. Ward Kovacs with Ocean City Beach Patrol says flash rip currents are the most dangerous–one that can disappear as quickly as it pops up–exactly what developed Monday.

“One minute it’s safe and the next minute you have a rip current there,” said Kovacs.

The number one thing to do–control your urge to fight it.

“It’s kind of like walking up an escalator that’s going down–eventually the machine wins,” Kovacs said.

Instead, swim parallel to the beach the length of a backyard pool and then try to swim to shore. Repeat the process until a lifeguard or first responder can jump into action.

But whatever you do, don’t panic.

Ritter: “Is it safe to say that maybe staying calm could mean the difference between life and death?”

Kovacs: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

The first thing officials want you to do when you arrive at the beach is to check in with a lifeguard and ask about the water conditions. Stay out of the water unless a lifeguard is on duty.

Officials say rip currents account for 80 percent of annual water rescues.

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