STONE HARBOR — Firefighters and two good Samaritans rescued a man from the ocean Saturday morning after rip currents nearly dragged him out to sea.

Zeke Orzech and Steve Markel are credited with helping the victim until first responders could get there, according to Stone Harbor Volunteer Fire Company #1.

Orzech had spent Saturday morning surfing at the beach at 102nd Street and decided to head back home around 10:30 a.m., reported. But as he left, his friend, Markel, alerted him to a report that a swimmer was in need of urgent help.

The pair went back to the beach and into the ocean to help the victim. Orzech reportedly gave his paddle board to the man, which kept him afloat.

Firefighters Eric Staeger and Lou Donofrio III arrived soon after and returned the victim to shore, according to fire company #1. The man was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.

"Great job by all especially the good Samaritans," the fire company posted on social media.

NJ beaches eroded by Hurricane Ian

Stone Harbor closed its beaches on Oct. 7 until further notice as a safety precaution due to storm damage in the wake of Hurricane Ian. It warned that "hidden safety hazards exist."

The hurricane remnants battered the Jersey Shore coastline for days with wind gusts as high as 55 mph, according to Stewart Farrell, the director and founder of the Stockton University Coastal Research Center.

READ MORE: NJ beaches are still a battered mess after Hurricane Ian

Farrell told New Jersey 101.5 last week that these high winds eroded much of the coastline, which created dangerous conditions.

“The worse impacts we saw were at the very Northeast corner of each of the barrier islands near the inlets," Farrell said, which includes the area around Stone Harbor. He said the Army Corps of Engineers is in charge of beach replinishment.

Surviving a rip current

Asbury Park Beach Safety Supervisor Joe Bongiovanni told New Jersey 101.5 over the summer that high winds and wave action create dangerous rip tides. If someone feels that they are being pulled by the current, he said the best way to survive is to keep calm.

READ MORE: NJ beach warning: If you ever feel getting pulled by the ocean, here's what to do

"Don’t panic and start screaming and thrashing around. Wave your arms, call for help, and just go with the current,” Bongiovanni said. Instead of fighting a current directly, victims should swim parallel to the shore line and then head back to land.

Includes previous reporting from David Matthau and Jen Ursillo.

Rick Rickman is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at

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