Second young Belmar girl dies after last week’s drowning
BELMAR — A local family is mourning the loss of a second loved one after a 12-year-old girl died just a few days after her cousin — after the two drowned at a borough beach last week.
Mayor Matt Doherty said the second girl, identified in multiple reports as Emily Gonzalez-Perez, died after being on life support since she and cousin Mitzi Hernandez were pulled from the water last Thursday.
"Emily fought valiantly for the last few days," the mayor said Monday evening. "Unfortunately her little body gave out today."
The mayor called the death of the young girl a tragedy and said "it also has a devastating impact on our small community here in Belmar as well."
"There's nothing worse than a parent having to bury a child, and in this case we're going to have this multiplied by two," he said. "It's just such a tragic thing to happen in a place where you go for happiness."
Because school was still in session, Doherty said, lifeguards were not posted when the girls were at the beach, though he added it has not been determined whether the drownings happened during the after-hours period.
"We do our very best to mitigate against the risks that people in cur going into the ocean," he said. "It's unfortunate, but tragedies like this do occur."
Mayor Doherty said in an effort to help the families through this difficult time the borough established a GoFundMe page that has already raised more than $40,000. He said he will also be making a donation of $20,000 from the Belmar Mayor's Ball to "assuage some of the financial burden."
"These are both working-class families that get paid by the hour," he said. "When they're not working they're not getting paid. While we're not able to assuage their grief from the loss of their children at least we can ease some of the financial burden that comes with a tragedy like this."
The mayor said the borough now has a full contingent of lifeguards on the beaches with school out of session, but added that the deaths of the two young girls should serve as a cautionary tale to remind people of the dangers of swimming in the ocean without lifeguards present.
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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com