OCEAN CITY – A 56-year-old former lifeguard died after struggling in the rough surf at an unguarded beach with his adult son early Thursday afternoon.

Shawn Reilly, 56, of Thornhurst, Pennsylvania, was pulled from the surf by members of the Ocean City Beach Patrol rapid response team at the 12th Street beach around 12:20 p.m., according to city spokesman Doug Bergen.

The victim's 21-year-old son tried to help his father but also struggled in the surf.

Lifeguards and first responders performed CPR on Reilly as soon as he was on the beach. He was taken to Shore Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

Hurricane Earl's location as of Friday morning
Hurricane Earl's location as of Friday morning (National Hurricane Center)

Rip currents caused by hurricane 900 miles from New Jersey

The entire Jersey Shore has been at high risk of rip currents since Wednesday with 3-6 foot waves whipped by northeast winds gusting to 22 mph, according to New Jersey 101.5 Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow.

Rip current danger
Rip current danger (National Weather Service)

There are two reasons behind the rough surf and high water including a hurricane 900 miles east-southeast of New Jersey.

"The angry sea stems from both the stagnant storm system from earlier in the week, and Hurricane Earl centered just east of Bermuda. This is not a good time to go for a swim at the beach. Most lifeguards are done for the season. And the ocean is most definitely stronger than you," Zarrow said.

Reilly was a former member of the Ocean City Beach Patrol, according to Jack Brooks, the administrator of the OCBP Alumni & Friends Facebook page.

"As lifeguards, anyone that has ever been involved in one of these incidents as a responder knows it has a lasting effect on the lifeguards who responded," Brooks wrote.

A limited number of Ocean City beaches are still guarded in September between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to  5:30 p.m. weekends.

Dan Alexander is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dan.alexander@townsquaremedia.com

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