An investigation is now underway after a Long Beach sunbather is run over by a police SUV. The victim remains in critical condition Thursday with a broken spine, and now the accident has many thinking twice about allowing heavy vehicles on the beach.
You can see his sandal still sitting in the sand, along with part of a crumpled chaise lounge. The 43-year-old victim was on his cell phone, listening to the radio when police said a Long Beach SUV accelerated suddenly in response to a swimmer in distress.
“It necessitated a very sharp right-hand turn and that would be on the passenger’s side, where you do have sort of a blind spot, and the unfortunate individual was in a low chaise lounge and unfortunately got run over,” said Long Beach City Manager Charles Theofan.
Theofan said the accident occurred when steamy weather drove hundreds to the beach, which doesn’t officially open until Saturday. With no lifeguards yet on duty, extra officers were called in in various vehicles.
“Maybe they can do something about that, but they have to be out here and we’ve seen them rescue people and help people,” said Long Beach resident Steve Fein.
Fein and his family watched the drama unfold and wondered about beach rules and heavy police vehicles.
“I’m on the beach a lot and I always see these big trucks and I always wonder, ‘Wow they are like three inches from me,’” said Gayle Fein.
Long Beach does have lighter patrol vehicles and rules keep them in an emergency lane near the water’s edge. During the summer season, they may now make changes.
In Miami Beach, policy changed when a police SUV there killed a sunbathing tourist. Now, those Florida officers must patrol on bicycles and all terrain vehicles, limit speeds to 15 miles an hour, and use overhead flashing lights on the beach.
New York State Park Police have SUVs, but at Jones Beach they try to use restricted lane and snow fences as boundaries.
“We keep clear so that if there is an emergency on the shoreline they will be able to respond,” said New York State Parks Spokesman George Gorman.
The sunbathing victim, identified as Marshall Starkman, remains in intensive care with a broken back. His family in Oceanside declined comment and they may be hiring a lawyer.
The officer who hit him didn’t even know it until he heard the shouts.
In light of the accident, several communities around New York have pledge to re-examine their policies regarding police vehicles patrolling beaches.