Richmond Hill man drowns off Coney Island beach

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Sebastian Rajopa, 23, was with his cousin Faried Murslim, 19, and a friend when...

By Kathianne Boniello

A Richmond Hill man who did not know how to swim was killed early Saturday morning when he was caught in a riptide off a Coney Island beach, police and family members said.

Sebastian Rajopa, 23, was with his cousin Faried Murslim, 19, and a friend when the three went for a stroll on the Coney Island boardwalk at West 14th Street, Murslim said Saturday afternoon. The trio decided to walk into the water a few minutes after 7 a.m. when no lifeguards were on duty, Murslim said.

“We were just at the beach in the water and the current just pulled him in,” Murslim said as he stood with Rajopa’s other relatives and friends outside the man’s 117th Street home. “It kept going — we couldn’t reach him.”

Police said Sebastian Rajopa was pulled into the ocean by the riptide and drowned. His body later washed ashore, and he was taken to Coney Island Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said.

Rajopa’s friend Ronald Achan said he was surprised that Rajopa would go into the ocean.

“I don’t know why he went to the beach when he couldn’t swim,” Achan said.

Indrawatee Rajopa, Sebastian’s mother, said her son was always interested in cars and motorbikes and also voiced surprised at the circumstances of his death.

“He rarely goes out to the beach, I was shocked,” she said.

“I said if anything he would get into an accident on the road,” she said. “But not in my wildest dreams would I think he would drown.”

Murslim, who does not know how to swim, said the friends approached passersby for help in rescuing Rajopa but were ignored.

“There were a lot of people. Nobody wanted to help,” Murslim said.

Relatives were in shock Saturday afternoon as they mourned Rajopa, who worked as a glazier in Brooklyn to support his family and who left behind a 2-year-old son, Sebastian Jr. Rajopa is also survived by his mother and a sister Sadhana, 14.

Indrawatee Rajopa, whose husband Appaiah died of cancer in 1997, was surrounded by relatives and friends as she grieved for her only son.

“I’d give anything to trade places with him,” she said, breaking down in tears. “Why didn’t somebody help my son? If somebody asked for help, he would have helped them.”

Indrawatee Rajopa said her family immigrated to the United States in 1985 from Guyana, living first in Brooklyn before moving to Richmond Hill about nine years ago. Relatives said the family often held gatherings and spent afternoons near the Coney Island boardwalk.

Sebastian Rajopa’s mother and sister described him as smart and hardworking, a person who enjoyed rap and reggae music and was interested in cars and motorbikes.

When his father died, Sebastian dropped out of high school to go to work full time and support the family, Indrawatee Rajopa said.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

Updated 7:10 pm, October 10, 2011
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