HENDERSON — Relatives of the man who drowned Friday evening at Southwick Beach State Park said they were amazed at the efforts by first responders and bystanders who tried to save their loved one, stunned at the resources used and are hoping this sudden tragedy doesn’t tarnish the area as unsafe.
Miguel Harvey was with his wife and kids Friday evening when they went to the state park to play on the beach and swim in Lake Ontario. They had some relatives already camping there, making it somewhat of a large gathering.
The waves weren’t too much of an issue, but the undertow was noticeable to the point people could feel it pull as soon as they walked in the water.
According to his relatives at the campsite located just off the sand — giving it the nickname Campers’ Beach — Mr. Harvey, 49, lounged at their campsite Friday afternoon before heading to the beach with his kids. As the family played together, more relatives came out and some started swimming.
When most of the family started heading back to camp, Mr. Harvey, a Marine veteran who was on a dive team when he was younger, went farther out.
“He was in an area where he was fine and then he just swam out farther,” said one relative, who decided not to give his name. “I don’t know if he just wanted to see how it was. I don’t know.”
It could have been a mixture of the undertow and Mr. Harvey swimming farther, but it escalated to the point he was nearly 100 yards off shore.
“You’re talking about a man who was 49 years old, in pretty good shape and a big guy,” the relative said. “So I think he might have mistook how bad it was. I think he wanted the challenge.”
Bystanders started noticing the moments when it was clear Mr. Harvey had gone too far out.
“A guy on the beach asked us if he was in trouble and then he swam out and risked his life. It’s like going into a burning building,” the relative said. “He actually got to him but he just couldn’t get him up.”
It was around 7 p.m. when first responders began swarming the area. Fort Drum, the relatives said, even brought a C-130 model aircraft, one of the largest military planes, to fly above the water and look for Mr. Harvey. A relative said the C-130 was flying at roughly 50 feet over the water. There were helicopters, drones, rescue boats, local fire departments and nearly a dozen state troopers.
“It was crazy the amount of people who were here,” the relative said. “To have Fort Drum willing to help is unbelievable.”
Another relative, who lives in LeRay, said it was eye opening to see the resources available in the area.
“Sometimes you take the military right in our back yard for granted,” she said.
The search lasted for roughly three hours before they recovered Mr. Harvey’s body, according to state police. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
While they mourn the loss of Mr. Harvey, the relatives are hoping this incident doesn’t make the area seem unsafe.
“Even with the waves, it was safe until you go someplace you shouldn’t be,” the LeRay relative said. “It wasn’t like people were out there being irresponsible. Just because he drowned, you can’t assume that this is a bad place. It’s a safe place. It doesn’t matter where you are, if you go too far out anywhere it’s not safe.”