North Wildwood seeks dismissal of ocean drowning lawsuit

    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

    A Jersey Shore municipality being sued for the drowning death of a man swept out to sea when the sand collapsed underneath him says it is immune from lawsuits due to a state law governing unimproved public property.

    North Wildwood claims the law puts the risk for use of such property on the user, and wants the lawsuit dismissed.

    Domonique McNeil and Tasha Hart also lost relatives to a similar drowning accident there in 2009

    Paul D’Amato, the lawyer for one of the victims’ family, says the town was negligent in its supervision of a public recreational facility.

    In July 2012, George Bradley Smith was walking through ankle deep water along the Hereford Inlet beach with his daughter when the sand collapsed. Someone on a personal watercraft rescued the girl, who was held above the waves by her father before he drowned.

    Smith, 54, was suddenly pulled into the “swirling ocean” on July 27, 2012 after “powerful, changing currents helped create a violent whirlpool or vortex effect,” according to a release from the Egg Harbor-based D’Amato Law Firm.

    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.


    The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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