North Wildwood resists demands to close beach where man drowned

    A view of the beach from 2nd and Ocean Avenues in North Wildwood

    A view of the beach from 2nd and Ocean Avenues in North Wildwood

    North Wildwood says it’s unreasonable to close a beach where a Pennsylvania man drowned in July 2012.

    The municipality is being sued for the drowning death of George Bradley Smith, who swept out to sea when the sand collapsed underneath him at the Hereford Inlet beach. Someone on a personal watercraft rescued his daughter, who was held above the waves by her father before he drowned.

    Smith’s family seeks damages and the closure of the beach where he died. Two others drowned at the beach in 2009.

    North Wildwood says it is immune from lawsuits due to a state law governing unimproved public property.

    In court papers, the Cape May County community acknowledges the tragedy but asserts 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.

    Late last year, Smith family lawyer Paul D’Amato said in a release that the town was negligent in its supervision of a public recreational facility.

    A court filing states that there is “a real and certain substantial potential of injury and/or death” to anyone who walks, fishes, wades, or swims at the stretch of beach between roughly north of 1st Avenue and Surf Avenue through Spruce Avenue. “

    The dangerous slope conditions are below the water line and are not visible to pedestrians walking on the beach, furthermore, they are not generally predictable although they probably occur most frequently during ebb current flows in the inlet,” coastal engineer J. Richard Weggel said in the release.

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    The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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