Jim Glorioso Jr. was metal detecting Monday morning at a beach in Atlantic City, in front of Ocean Casino Resort, when a woman ran up to him and asked if any lifeguards were on duty. A man and his son were in trouble in the water.
There weren’t any on duty — it was about 9 a.m., and although families were already gathering on the shore, the beach patrol’s first shift didn’t start until 10.
The man struggling in the ocean was Thanh Bui, a 58-year-old from Reading, who later died after trying to help his 11-year-old son get to the shoreline in rough waters. The boy survived and was treated for injuries police said weren’t life-threatening.
“I could kind of see the kid coming in, but I couldn’t really see the dad,” said Glorioso, a 42-year-old former police officer from Amsterdam, N.Y.
A woman offered him a boogie board, so he swam out to help Bui, who was face-down in the water.
“It was tough, because I saw something floating and hoped it was a log or something, but it was his back,” he said. “When I flipped him over, he already had foam coming out of his mouth, so I knew he had ingested a lot of water.”
On the boogie board, Glorioso tried to perform CPR on Bui, but the waves made it difficult.
“I didn’t realize how far out I was.... I knew there were no lifeguards on duty and I started to worry I wouldn’t even make it back,” he said.
Lifeguards about to come on duty, including beach patrol chief Steve Downey, heard of the incident, which Glorioso said happened near a guard station, and came to help him.
“I think I would be dead if it wasn’t for those guys, to be honest,” Glorioso said.
Glorioso said tourists often don’t think about whether lifeguards will be on duty when they come out in the morning. Atlantic City beaches are closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., and the beach patrol is officially on duty from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. A lack of signage makes the problem worse, Glorioso said.
“It’s kind of deceiving on when someone’s there to even help you,” he said.
The office for the Atlantic City beach patrol declined to comment, but at a news conference Wednesday, Downey said beach conditions were not a factor in the incident, according to the Camden Courier-Post.
“The biggest tragedy of all is that it’s avoidable,” Downey said.
Glorioso said he thinks more signs and longer lifeguard hours would be beneficial.
“I think in the summer, in the peak season, there should absolutely be a lifeguard there at 9 a.m.,” he said.