Surfer saves swimmer from rip current at NJ beach; state sees 3 drownings over holiday weekend

Video shows Marine veteran Stephen Houser spotting Gabe McCabe as he struggles against the rip current on Long Beach Island.

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Tuesday, September 5, 2023
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Anthony Johnson spoke to a heroic surfer who rescued a man struggling in perilous rip currents at the Jersey Shore over the weekend.

BELMAR, N.J. -- Three swimmers have died, and several others had to be rescued due to rip currents in New Jersey over the weekend.

On Sunday, tragedy struck in Beach Haven, Ocean County, where lifeguards created a human chain to begin to search for a submerged swimmer. Two swimmers were pulled to the shore safely, but despite efforts by the police and EMS, a 22-year-old man was killed in the rough waves.

The man, identified as Edwin Antonio Made Sanches of the Dominican Republic, was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

Over in Belmar, police received a call for a group of swimmers in distress off the 6th Avenue Beach. Five swimmers were rescued. Officials also pulled the unresponsive body of a 42-year-old male swimmer and transported him to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Later that evening, at Seaside Beach, police responded to reports of six swimmers in distress near Stockon Avenue.

Multiple agencies, including the United States Coastal Guard, were involved in the search, leading to the rescue of five of the six swimmers.

They were unable to locate a 31-year-old male swimmer.

USCG searched overnight, and those efforts have since ended.

Meanwhile, on Long Beach Island, a surfer jumped into action to save a swimmer in distress, and the entire rescue was captured on the surfer's camera.

Ex-Marine Stephen Houser was recording a YouTube video with his family and saw swimmer Gabe McCabe going under and became a life raft for the man who was losing the fight to stay afloat.

"I've never experienced anything like this," McCabe said. "It just sucked, zapped the energy right out of you."

"With those currents it could have turned out really deadly and just having that inflatable board that I had, a really buoyant board, right when Gabe grabbed onto that board I knew I had him," Houser said.

Houser says he has saved swimmers in the past and he is a surfer, but he respects the water.

"I've been in rip currents before too it's scary," he said. "Your first instinct is panic."

Houser and McCabe are now friends for life, which is special since Houser is responsible for saving McCabe's life when he was nearly swallowed in the rough surf.

"Steve definitely was the man at the moment yesterday for me," McCabe said. "I'm not sure if I would be here today, but thankfully I am."

"I was just in the right place at the right time," Houser said. "I'm just happy to have helped him and I think anybody in my situation would have done the same thing."