A New Jersey judge is refusing to order the closure of a beach where three people died when the sand gave way beneath them as they walked near the water’s edge.
In a ruling issued Monday, Superior Court Judge Julio Mendez instead directed state and local officials to evaluate safety concerns at the Hereford Inlet beach in North Wildwood.
He dismissed a request from the family of Brad Smith, who died in a July 2012 accident, to immediately order the beach closed. Smith was swept out to sea when the sand collapsed underneath him at the beach.
Someone on a personal watercraft rescued his daughter, who was held above the waves by her father before he drowned. Two others drowned at the beach in 2009.
In court papers filed in January, the Cape May County municipality acknowledged the tragedy but asserted that Smith’s family will never go back there; that closing the beach would ruin things for others who still want to go there, and that the unstable sand condition that claimed his life is part of nature and not something the town is obligated to fix.
The judge directed the state Department of Environmental Protection and North Wildwood to take “prompt and timely action” to address safety concerns at the beach.
D’Amato says the ruling endangers future beachgoers.
In a release issued after the court’s decision, Mayor Patrick Rosenello said all beach visitors should be aware of all warning signs on the beach.
“The city will be forever sympathetic toward the Smith Family for the tragic loss of Bradley Smith,” Rosenello said. “And, while the city is satisfied with the court’s decision, I advise all beachgoers to pay attention to warning signage, and if a lifeguard is not on duty, do not go in the water.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.