The waters off Rockaway last week claimed the lives of two Queens fathers who were spending time with their loved ones.
Jose-Luis Olivares, of Ozone Park, was with his family at Riis Park Friday night when he, his 8-year-old daughter, Stephanie; and wife, Elfega Olivares, were caught by a wave and carried out into the ocean, police said. Although both women made it to safety, Jose-Luis was found unconscious on the beach and pronounced dead at Peninsula Hospital minutes later, according to police.
“I was scared because I didn’t want my family to die,” Stephanie told television reporters.
Jose-Luis Olivares, 36, who was also with his son and younger brother, Javier Olivares, was a strong swimmer, according to his sibling. He worked at the Associated Flowers shop in Manhattan and was liked by many in the community, according to his boss, Johnny Kiamos, who visited the family Saturday.
“He was one in the greatest guys in the world,” Kiamos told television reporters. “Family was everything to him.”
Two days before Olivares died, Heyward Patterson, 40, was with his girlfriend, Lisa Dean, near Beach 15th Street around 3 a.m. when he decided to go for a dip in the water to cool off, according to Patterson’s brother, Curtis Patterson. Within minutes, he was swept away by the rapid current as his girlfriend of 15 years watched in horror.
“He was like, ‘I’m getting in the water. I’m hot,’” Curtis Patterson said.
U.S. Coast Guard crews searched all day for his body, but called off the search later that evening. His body was found by two joggers off the shores of Long Island Sunday morning, according to Nassau County police.
Curtis Patterson said his brother was living in Jamaica with his girlfriend and was on disability assistance. The couple would often go to the Rockaways to hang out, according to Curtis Patterson.
Heyward Patterson is survived by a teenage son and daughter from other relationships, his mother and a sister, his brother said.
Since the beginning of the month, five people have died off the Rockaway coast. The waters in that area are infamous for their rough rip tides and strong currents.
Three weeks ago, three people died off the Rockaways in separate incidents. Two drowned and one complained of having chest pains and was found unconscious in the water by a rescuer, according to authorities.
Beach-goers who visited Riis Park this weekend said they were shocked at the news of the drownings, but said they were not discouraged from swimming and enjoying the warm weather.
“We usually wait until lifeguards are on duty and we don’t go far ... up to our waists,” said Susan Tenner of Brooklyn, who was at the beach Sunday with her husband and their two daughters.
If caught in a current, swimmers are advised to swim parallel to the shore and then head back in once they are closer to the beach.
Longtime Riis Park beach-goer Greg Smith said there should be more of an educational effort made to make sure people know how to handle themselves in the water.
“You’re not going to change the ocean,” the 45-year-old Putnam County resident said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.
©2009 Community News Group
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