Man drowns after helping friends caught in rip current off N.J. beach

U.S. Coast Guard

(U.S. Coast Guard)

A New York City man drowned while helping two friends who were struggling in rough waters off the southern New Jersey coast, authorities said.

Officials said the body of Jalan Alston, 18, of Brooklyn, was found around 6:20 p.m. Saturday in waters off Atlantic City. The discovery came a day after he had vanished while swimming at a beach in nearby Ventnor.

Alston, who had recently graduated from high school, was swimming with two friends when the pair began to struggle in the rough waters around 7 p.m. Friday. Alston was able to help push them toward shore but soon disappeared under the water, authorities said.

Alston’s two friends made it safely back to shore. One of them then called 911, and the Coast Guard launched an intensive search for Alston that lasted for several hours before it eventually was suspended.

Along with the Ventnor City Police Department, Coast Guard personnel searched 58 square-miles over air, sea and land over a period of 13 hours.

“Our deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of Jalan,” said Capt. Jonathan Theel, commander of Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay. “It’s always difficult to suspend a case and it weighs especially heavy on our hearts knowing that he was helping others.”

Authorities said the rough surf was spawned by Tropical Storm Fay as it passed through the region, and they believe Alston and his friends were caught in a dangerous rip current.

In a Facebook post, one of Alston’s friends that he had helped rescue wrote: “Jalan jumped in after me, grabbed my arm to pull me closer to him. He noticed the (undertow) was pulling him now, too, put his hand on my back, and pushed me over the wave I was stuck in. By doing so, he put himself in my spot.”

“Months ago, I told him my biggest fear is drowning, and he did everything he could to make sure that wouldn’t happen to me.”

How to identify a rip current:

  • A channel of churning, choppy water
  • An area having a notable difference in water color
  • A line of foam, seaweed or debris moving steadily seaward
  • A break in the incoming wave pattern

If caught in a rip current, NOAA advises:

  • Stay calm.
  • Don’t fight the current.
  • Escape the current by swimming in a direction following the shoreline. When free of the current, swim at an angle — away from the current — toward shore.
  • If you are unable to escape by swimming, float or tread water. When the current weakens, swim at an angle away from the current toward shore.
  • If at any time you feel you will be unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself: face the shore and call or wave for help.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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