A 16-year-old Cape May rookie lifeguard who was critically injured while performing a patrol in the ocean Thursday has died, the Jersey Shore town announced Saturday morning.
Norman V. Inferrera III, 16, of Phoenixville, had been rowing a lifeguard boat in the ocean off Reading Avenue Beach when the craft was broadsided by a wave and flipped over. Inferrera was knocked unconscious, according to the statement from City Manager Michael Voll.
Lifeguards responded immediately to help him, Voll said. Inferrera had to be resuscitated twice and was airlifted to Cooper University Hospital, according to a post on a GoFundMe page started by an aunt, Kathleen Inferrera Price of Deptford, to help with medical bills.
She announced his death on that page Saturday morning.
“The Lord called my beautiful nephew Norman home last night. The family is overwhelmed with sorrow. The bright light in this tragedy is the support and prayers that have been pouring in. We send love and blessings to each and every one of you.”
Donations to the page had surpassed $85,000 by late Saturday morning.
In an interview Saturday, Voll said Cape May has never before lost a lifeguard to injuries sustained on duty.
“Even at such a young age, Norman was loved by his fellow Lifeguards,” said Mayor Zachary Mullock in the town’s statement. “No words can express the sadness suffered by all of our Beach Patrol family. Norman chose to protect others. He did so professionally and worked hard at it. That is an extraordinary attribute for anyone, especially at 16 years old.”
Cape May Beach Patrol Chief Harry Back called Inferrera “a beloved member of our Beach Patrol family,” recalling “a permanent smile” on the young man’s face.
Voll urged community members in need of help processing Inferrera’s tragic death to reach out.
“As we collectively grieve the passing of this bright light from our world, far too soon, we remind and encourage those needing an ear to listen or a shoulder to lean on to reach out to their support system and seek counseling,” Voll said, adding that grief counselors have been provided to all beach patrol staff.
Lifeguards from other towns helped provide coverage as Cape May’s grieved. The town has about 70 lifeguards, down to about 40 currently active as some have left to return to school, Voll said.
Inferrera had just been hired this season after passing a “rigorous” test, the city manager said.
“He always wanted to be a lifeguard. This was his dream that came true,” Voll said.
With Hurricane Henri expected to create dangerous rip currents along the Jersey Shore on Saturday and Sunday, Voll said Cape May’s lifeguards, already reeling from Inferrera’s death, “have their hands full physically and emotionally” this weekend.