BELMAR — Grief counselors on Friday were at the school attended by two cousins who were pulled from the surf Thursday evening off a Monmouth County beach.

(Bud McCormick)

One of the girls, a 13-year-old in the 6th grade, died at Jersey Shore University Hospital on Thursday night after she was pulled from the ocean between 9th and 11th avenues. Rescuers saved her 12-year-old cousin, a 5th grade student.

"It was a tough day," Mayor Matt Doherty said.

The Belmar rescue was one of two reported drowning incidents on the Jersey Shore Thursday evening. In Atlantic City, two girls were presumed drowned as rescuers continued a recovery effort Friday morning.

Belmar Police responded to a call that came in around 6:20 p.m. on Thursday night for a person in distress in the ocean. The 12-year-old was rescued and hospitalized. The 13-year-old was found unconscious just before 7 p.m.and also hospitalized.

Doherty did not disclose the names of either girl, but said both attended Belmar Elementary School along with his daughters.

"This is a close-knit school in a small town, so the feeling of loss is impactful and meaningful," he said. "As a parent, I cannot even begin to imagine the death of a child. And as the mayor, there is no worse news to have to report than the loss of a child in our town."

A prayer service as held at St. Rose Church at 1:30 p.m. Friday.

The  beach was unguarded, as is the custom in Belmar where lifeguards start weekday duty the day after classes end for the summer. Lifeguards, however, were on duty Friday morning. Some sat in the lifeguard chairs while others sat on the sand under blankets and jackets trying to keep warm on a cloudy, cool morning.

New Jersey 101.5 Meteorologist Dan Zarrow said rip currents have been present all week and will continue over the weekend.

"Every summer, we gauge daily rip current risk on a 3-point scale: low, moderate, and high. Because of an easterly (on-shore) wind, the risk currently falls in the 'moderate' range, meaning there is a significantly elevated number and increased risk of rip currents."

Members from Monmouth County Emergency Response Team, the U.S. Coast Guard, State Police, Belmar Water Rescue, Manasquan Fire Department, Monmouth County Fire Marshall's Office, Manasquan Fire Department, Avon-by-the-Sea Police Department, Bradley Beach Police Department, and paramedics assisted with the search, rescue, and recovery efforts.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.

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