Family seeks shutdown of beach where man drowned
The family of a Pennsylvania man who drowned at the ocean when the sand allegedly gave way beneath his feet in 2012 has sued to seek the closure of that part of the beach.
Sandra Smith of Horsham, Pennsylvania, filed suit Wednesday in state Superior Court against North Wildwood, Cape May County and the state of New Jersey over the July 2012 incident that claimed the life of her husband, Brad, and nearly killed their 7-year-old daughter.
According to the lawsuit, Brad Smith was walking with his daughter, another man and that man's daughter in ankle-deep water near the Hereford Inlet in North Wildwood when the sand gave way beneath their feet, sweeping them out to sea. A passerby on a personal watercraft rescued the girl, who was being held above the waves by her father before he drowned.
"It was a quiet day at the beach — the boys were boogie boarding, the girls were playing in the sand," Smith said. "We were talking about what we were going to have for dinner when Brad, my husband, suggested going for a walk — nothing more — down the beach. I still cannot accept that Brad never returned from that short walk on the beach, that the beach collapsed under their feet, and that we lost him forever, and almost lost our 7-year-old daughter."
North Wildwood Mayor Patrick Rosenello said the section of beach where the incident occurred is an unguarded beach where signs prohibiting swimming were in place before Smith's death.
"The city of North Wildwood takes its beach protection responsibilities quite seriously," he said. "In fact, there has never been a drowning incident at a protected beach in the City of North Wildwood in its 100-plus years of existence."
Sandra Smith said that during the four days her husband remained missing in the ocean, police officers repeatedly came to the house where they were staying and told them how dangerous that area of beach is.
"Every day I think and worry about the people that visit this beach every year and have no idea of the danger from simply taking a short walk; not a swim, not a nature trek, but just a walk on a public beach where there were no warnings or signs — nothing — urging you to stay away," she said.
The lawsuit claims the town, county and state were negligent in allowing a dangerous condition, obscured by waves, to exist in areas were swimmers were present.
It also asserts work that was done at the beach including beach replenishment contributed to the dangerous condition.
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