Long Beach police and fire officials said that the body of a man believed to be 30-year-old Neil Gibbons, who went missing during a late-night swim on Monday, was recovered on Wednesday morning.
Lt. Mark Stark, a Police Department spokesman, said that a couple on the beach discovered a man’s body on the shoreline between Edwards and Riverside boulevards just after 1 a.m. and notified police.
“We’re guessing it’s him,” said Stark, who emphasized that the Nassau County medical examiner had yet to make a positive identification.
Stark said that police had informed Gibbons’s family.
Gibbons, a native of Ireland who was believed to be living in Brooklyn, went into the ocean with two friends at Long Beach Boulevard beach, officials said. The search for him began at around 2 a.m. on Monday. He was last seen wearing beige swim trunks.
Long Beach police, firefighters, lifeguards, the U.S. Coast Guard and other first responders scoured the water and the shoreline. “After searching extensively throughout the night and daylight hours, in coordination with our partner agencies, we have made the difficult decision to suspend our search,” Commander An-drew Ely, chief of response of the Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound, said Monday night.
Long Beach Fire Commissioner Scott Kemins said that first responders were notified that multiple swimmers were in distress at Long Beach Boulevard beach early Monday. “… [T]hree males had been swimming in the ocean, two of which were able to make it out safely,” the Fire Department said on its Facebook page. “The third male had gone missing in the rough surf and the water rescue matrix was activated.”
Officials said that the search-and-recovery effort also included the Nassau County Police Marine & Aviation Bureau, the Lawrence-Cedarhurst Fire Department, Atlantic Beach Rescue and the New York City Police Department’s Air and Sea Rescue.
Crews searched for about two hours before they declared it a recovery mission, Kemins said. They covered more than 650 square miles over a total of 29 hours, according to the Coast Guard. The search involved at least four boats and two helicopters.
Kemins said that the water was extremely rough, and that two of the men noticed that their friend was missing. “The three of them were in the water, two got out and they realized their friend didn’t come out,” Kemins said. “They were screaming and looking for him.”
The men rushed to a bystander on the boardwalk who called 911, he added.
According to News 12, the incident occurred after the men had been drinking, but police declined to comment on whether alcohol was involved.
Gibbons’s family and friends could not immediately be reached for comment.
It was the second time a swimmer had gone missing in a week. On June 19, Ramell McRae Jr., a 10-year-old from Hempstead, entered the water at Edwards Boulevard beach with his 11-year-old brother, Jaquan, and both began to struggle in rough water (see story above).
Both incidents occurred while lifeguards were not on duty, when swimming is prohibited. Lifeguards began working full-time on June 23.
Officials urged swimmers to always swim in areas where lifeguards are present. “The ocean is powerful and can overtake even the best swimmers,” the Coast Guard said on its website.
Anthony Rifilato contributed to this story.