(July 4, 2014) A Timonium man died Tuesday after a body surfing incident on Ocean City’s beach last week left him with a broken neck, Ocean City Beach Patrol Capt. Butch Arbin said.
Emergency responders rushed the man, 69, off the beach at 82nd Street around noon Wednesday, June 25, after on-duty lifeguard Robert Phiambolis spotted him facedown in the surf.
Though responders could not find a pulse when they carried him to shore, he began coughing up water after five rounds of CPR and his heartbeat returned by the time medical staff carried him from the beach, Phiambolis said.
The Beach Patrol helped the victim’s wife on the shore after the incident and has been in touch with his daughter, Arbin said.
“Yesterday I got a call that he wasn’t doing well,” he said Wednesday. “With these types of things, there are a lot of things they deal with. One of those things was just more than can be managed.”
The victim’s daughter relayed that he died due to complications from the injuries, Arbin said. Though she was not prepared to speak to the paper by press time, she conveyed her thanks through him.
“She keeps telling me thanks — thanks everyone for their support and their prayers,” Arbin said. “She just said, ‘Please convey our thanks to him (Phiambolis) for everything he did. We believe that everything was taken care of the best anybody could do, but in the end, the injuries were more than he could handle.
“That’s pretty incredible when you talk to someone who’s just lost a family member.”
Phiambolis, who’s been with the Ocean City Beach Patrol for three summers, spotted the victim about 10 yards from shore during a regular scan, he said.
When he rushed to the water, several beachgoers joined in the rescue.
“I saw the lifeguard drop everything and run and I saw a body in the water,” said Derek Perdue, of Parsonsburg.
“He was face down. The guy wasn’t breathing,” said John Hughes, of Pittsburgh, Pa.
Based on the victim’s bleeding nose and forehead, beach patrol staff treated him for neck injuries. Phiambolis used a practiced technique where the rescuer uses his own body as a backboard to swim the victim to shore, immobilizing the head and neck as much as possible.
Though the surf wasn’t rough and the victim’s wife said he body surfs often, Arbin believes he hit his head on the shallow bottom.
He looked back at the tide tables for that day and noted the incident occurred at low tide — something unusual for shore break injuries, he said.
“Waves come in sets and this must’ve just been that one big wave,” Arbin said. “He caught it and unfortunately he wasn’t able to get his arm out in front of him to break his impact with the beach.”
He was uncertain whether the victim died in Salisbury or had been transported to the Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.
“It’s sad, what happened, but he was doing what he loved to do. He was out in the ocean body surfing,” Arbin said.