Richmond Hill surfer dies

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A Richmond Hill amateur surfer died after he got caught in the surf while riding the waves in Rockaway Beach last Thursday, witnesses said.

The man, described as a 36-year-old Richmond Hill man by witnesses, was warned not to surf because of his inexperience and the rough surf. He was identified as 36-year-old Alessandro Barreto by TV channel Fox 5.

He was taken to Peninsula Hospital after being rescued from the surf and was declared dead on arrival.

“He was under water about four or five minutes,” said Rockaway resident Dave Monastersky. “He was under a long time.”

“He was told not to go out,” Monastersky said. “You got to respect the ocean.”

The man’s body was dragged from the designated surfing beach to Beach 96th Street — several blocks away from when he first got caught in the tide.

He was pulled out of the ocean by Firefighter Casey Skudin of Ladder 137. Police were on the scene but did not perform the rescue, witnesses said.

Barreto suffered a heart attack before he was taken to Peninsula Hospital, according to the New York Post.

Adam Sand, a Rockaway resident who lives across the street from the beach, was called by police to see if he could recognize the surfer’s board or spot the man, but he was still under water at that point.

“I’ve seen a lot of people pulled out .... He didn’t look good,” Sand said.

Sand said he and his fellow surfers stick together when the weather gets colder.

“Out here now, it’s just us,” he said. “We don’t experience casualties because we are so used to doing what we do. If there is a problem, one of us is going to go get the other.”

This summer was a particularly rough season for swimming in Rockaway Beach. There were six drowning-related deaths at the beach during that period.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

Updated 6:29 pm, October 10, 2011
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