Two young sisters and their cousin drowned Monday when a sudden current pulled them out to sea as they waded in knee-deep waters along a city beach.
One of the girls, 13-year-old Rahela Begum, was pulled from the water by her uncle, who was fishing nearby at the time. She was taken to a nearby hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Emergency crews, including police, firefighters, rescue divers, and the Coast Guard, continue to search for the bodies of the other two girls, 12-year-old Shajeda Ahmed and her 16-year-old sister, Jubeda.
The three girls, all from New Jersey, had been at the beach in the borough of Queens relaxing with other family members on the warm summer morning.
Girls ‘Vanished’ From the Shore
"When we looked they were gone, it was like they just vanished out of thin air," said Donna Marsden, who was on Atlantic Beach around 9:30 a.m. when the accident happened.
Another witness, Francine Contin, said: "I actually saw the girls come up out of the water. They were screaming for help.
"They maybe got three 'helps' out and then it's just like, all you saw was the ocean take them straight and then like shift them toward the bridge."
Signs warning of dangerous currents are posted at the beach, but one of the girls' relatives, Asmat Ali, was upset there were no lifeguards on duty at the time.
"When someone comes here with little children, somebody, I don't care who's in charge, any type of authority, should warn them or tell them that they shouldn't be swimming here," he said.
Another Drowning in Hudson Valley Creek
Another tragedy occurred Monday in Esopus, N.Y., when two children and their 47-year-old baby sitter drowned in Roundout Creek, which empties into the Hudson River.
Police are trying to figure out how the baby sitter, Susan Comer and the four children she cared for ended up in Roundout Creek late Monday afternoon. Two of the children — Mark Anthony Flores, 5, and Alyssa Flores, 8, — drowned with Comer. The other two children — Kassandra Flores and Nelson Oliveras — were rescued by a fisherman and his son.
A firefighter at the scene who tried to revive the victims wished everyone could have been saved.
"Being a firefighter, you just try your best," Frank Dart said. "It is a very traumatic experience when you have children involved."
A friend of Comer's was shocked by the drowning because she was normally so careful with the children she baby-sat.
"She always looked out for the kids," Clayton Spruill said. "It's just so tragic and shocking and the whole town is numb right now."
A young boy also died at a beach in California Monday, when a sand tunnel collapsed and trapped him.
WABC's Lauren Defranco and Art McFarland contributed to this report.