Long Beach, NY drowning rescue, Aug 1880


A Narrow Escape from Drowning at Long Beach - The Bottom Suddenly Drops from Under the Bathers' Feet.

Special Disptach to the Cincinnati Gazette.

NEW YORK, Aug. 17. - The Herald has the following account of a narrow escape of well known parties from drowning at Long Beach:

One of the peculiar attractions of Long Beach is a number of cottages skirting the ocean front to the north of the hotet [sic]. Thes cottages are now occupied by a number of well known New Yorkers. Cottage No. 6 is rented by Mr. Fletcher A. Harper, of Harper Brothers, pubhishers. The cottagers do not, as s ruel, bathe at the hotel beach, but prefer the privacy of the water in front of their own dwellings. On Sunday, about 1 o'clock in the afternoon, the following ladies and gentlemen were in for a bath from Mr. Harper's cottage: Mrs. F. Harper, Mrs. Spencer Peck, of Williamsport, Pa.; Mr. Orrin C. Frost, Mr. Geo. Belcher, and Mr. Wm. Harper, a brother of Fletcher. The party had been in the water but a short time when a most extraordinary circumstance occurred, placing the lives of all in extreme peril. There was no one else in the water byt the party mentioned, but several gentlemen and ladies were on the beach watching them as they tumbled about in the breakers. They were about 300 feet out from the beach and all had hold of hands. The water was warm and the sand seemingly smooth and firm, and the tide was at its flood, but not very strong. As each wave came in the party would jump with it and come down on the bottom after it had rolled away. The water seemed to be only about four and ahalf feet deep between the waves.

Presently a much larger wave than usual came foaming in, and the ladies and gentlemen rose to meet it. When it had passed, however, and they came down again there was no foothold. The bottom had gone. After floundering about for a moment the gentlemen were satisfied that, extraordinary as it seemed, the sand had actually gone from under them and they were over their heads. Neither of the ladies could swim, but happily all the gentlemen could. There was, of course, a momentary confusion incident to such a sudden surprise, and the entire party went under a number of times, to the great delight of those on the beach, who imagined they were getting a good ducking, and with not the slightest idea that their friends in the water were struggling for life. Then the gentlement, knowing that only a determined effort would save any of the party, started to swim for the shore. Mr. Belcher and Mr. harper took Mrs. Harper between them and started, and Mr. Frost supported Mrs. Peck. An eyewitness states that the ladies displayed the greatest presence of mind and the gentlemen the uptmost pluck and energy

"Do not clasp me," said Mr. Frost to Mrs. Peck. "Just rest your hands on my shoulders and we will get out in safety."

"All right," coolly replied Mrs. Peck.

The other gentlemen gave the same instructions to Mrs. Harper, who as coolly promised to comply. Mr . [sic] Harper, however, was exceedingly faint, and her had sslipping, she went under the water, and in a moment was at the mercy of a huge wave theat came dashing in. Wm Harper, however, stuck bravely to her, Belcher being washed off and going under with her. Never relinquishing his hold for a moment, he soon brought her to the surface. Again the swim for life and the shore was resumed. Again her hands slipped, and again she went under, taking with her her plucky young brother-in-law, who, although half strangled with the water, would not let go.

After a succession of similar accidents the party reached the shore in a sorry plight. Hardly one of them could stand, and Mrs. Harper was entirely unconscious. Of course ready hands were on the spot, and the party were assisted to the cottage. Mrs. Peck was hardly able to walk, even with assistance, and Mrs. Harper was still unconscious at the cottage. Dr. Sumner, who had been sent for, met them and applied restoratives, which, after twenty minutes, succeeded in arousing Mrs. Harper.

When that had been done, and the reaction came, it was found that the gentlemen had collapsed. The excitement of the swim, and the knowledge that upon them depended the lives of the ladies, had kept them up, but when everthing was over nature asserted itself, and neither of them could move a hand to held [sic] himself. Frank Smith, Managing Director of the Long Beach Company, Dr. Sumner and other gentlemen, turned their attention to the resucers, and rubbed them down in the most approved fashion.

It was an extremely difficult matter to account for the shifting of the bottom, and a variety of opinions were ventured. One old weather beaten salt, whose life has been spent about the Long Island coast, says he never knew of exactly such an accident. The beach was shelving and even all along the Long Island coast, but particularly so from Long Beach to Bridgehampton. It did not vary much from year to year, and such a thing as the bottom dropping out he had never heard of. When these changes occurred it was generally in winter, after a severe storm; but such sudden shiftings of the bottom in a calm day in a flood tide was a revelation to him. There were many others who shared in his opinion, and some said that the party may have ventured too far out, and gradually increased their depth without knowing it. The eyewitnesses to the affair give the utmost praise to the ladies for their coolness and self-posession, and to the gentlemen for their severe and successful struggle. The entire party were able to be about yesterday, and in a day or two will be none the worse for their narrow escape from drowning.

The Cincinnati Daily Gazette, Cincinnati, OH, 18 Aug 1880