Body of Teen Swimmer Found Near Town Fishing Pier


June 22, 2015

Persons gathered on the Cape Charles boardwalk Sunday night during search and rescue operations for a missing swimmer heard a weeping, distraught man call out “mi hijo” — my son. At that time his son had been missing in the water for some two hours. Police contacted the Coast Guard at about 6:30 p.m. to report the missing boy.

Although search teams continued through the night, the body of 15-year old Alvaro Lopez-Castaneda was not found until Monday afternoon, when it was recovered near the town fishing pier. He had recently finished the ninth grade at Nandua High School in Accomack County.

The tragedy was sadly reminiscent of another Sunday afternoon last August when an 8-year-old drowned off the beach. His body was not recovered until the following Tuesday — also close to the fishing pier.

Following the drowning last August, outspoken residents urged town officials to erect warning signs to swimmers and establish a roped-off area. Some called for town life guards as well. In response, the town announced plans for a designated swimming area, but as of yesterday — the first official day of summer — nothing had been done.

Rescue efforts included use of a Coast Guard 25-foot response boat crew from Station Cape Charles and a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Elizabeth City. Virginia Marine Resources Commission personnel and members of the Cape Charles Fire Department also took part in the search.



15 Responses to “Body of Teen Swimmer Found Near Town Fishing Pier”

  1. David Gay on June 22nd, 2015 9:26 am

    Last year the Town Council discussed putting up a swim barrier to warn swimmers of the deep swift moving channel just off the Cape Charles Beach. The Council decided that there was no need to take immediate action because the death occurred at the end of the season. Now a second death has occurred as the Council continues to procrastinate. Now it seems odd that we can spend money to build a base for the Neptune statue and we can’t warn our tourists about the dangerous condition off the beach. Mayor and Town Council, there is nothing more important that you can do now to protect the children than to put up a swim barrier. Stop making excuses and fix the problem or resign. Thank you.

  2. Deborah Bender on June 22nd, 2015 11:09 am

    Last year I spoke at a town meeting. I told them that they needed to put up rope with buoys attached to warn swimmers about the sudden drop off point. Now we have yet another dead swimmer. The town spends a fortune to bring in tourists. They spend a lot to make the beach bigger. We have a sign on the highway stating FREE BEACH. Now maybe they need to SPEND SOME MONEY TO MAKE OUR BEACH SAFE. There are sandbars right off the beach. The beach drops off where the sandbars start. RIGHT NOW AND I MEAN TODAY they need to get out there and put up the ropes. Thanks to Mayor Proto’s poor decision we now have another dead child.

  3. Julie Phillips on June 22nd, 2015 11:13 am

    Indeed Mr. Gay! Such an easy, smart and affordable fix. Brightly colored rope and some buoys — what every fisherman has on the Shore, and every hardware store sells! Our town needs to be pro-active and accountable and fix this problem. Some red flags flying on the beach is good practice too.

    What a sad start to a (what should be) fun summer season. Sad but hopeful.

  4. Tammy Taylor on June 22nd, 2015 3:00 pm

    Why does it have to take 2 children to drown before something can be done? This is a matter of life NOT money. How many councilmen/women need to vote on these lives for it to be an “immediate” concern? It was said before that because it was the “end of the season” it was not an immediate concern. Well this time it was not the end of the season. Remember, tourists are not going to want to come to such a dangerous beach and generate revenue for your town if people/kids are drowning every year!

  5. Andy Zahn on June 22nd, 2015 4:34 pm

    Last year I suggested a float line at the beach. I didn’t come up with the idea, as it goes back to my childhood and the ocean beaches in NJ. The cost of this should be very small and likely some watermen could cut poles and jet them into the sea floor and then attach a rope or several ropes with visible large floats. Add a warning sign to explain the meaning of the line. It is a tragedy that another young life has been lost.

  6. Tim Kellam on June 22nd, 2015 7:30 pm

    Another drowning in CC Beachfront unnecessary, town can afford King Neptune & new parking they make revenue off of but no lines w/ buoys, or lifeguards!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Mandi Mears on June 22nd, 2015 11:49 pm

    It is long overdue that the folks in charge of Cape Charles start focusing on beach SAFETY, particularly now that the new expansion puts swimmers much closer to the “drop off”. Install drop off markers and bring in full time lifeguards Memorial Day through Labor Day. Oh, and here’s an idea, use the revenue from all those parking tickets to pay for the lifeguards. The time to act is NOW. Two drownings in 10 months is too much. What will it take before safeguards are implemented…. A third drowning… A fourth!?

  8. Stephen K. Fox on June 23rd, 2015 9:41 am

    Each time I hear of a drowning at the Cape Charles Beach, I am reminded of an event almost 60 years ago when a young man was drowned at the beach. I can remember his family and friends in deep anguish about the young man’s death….”Peaches (as he was known) drowned”. I have often thought of this tragic event, and last year after the small child met a similar fate, it appeared that the situation compelled a pro-active approach by the Town. That has not happened, but it must be given the highest of priorities. Extension of the beach heightens this concern. Beach goers are lured by the enchantment of the Bay, and perhaps do not use the best of judgment, but warning signs will assist in better judging the circumstances.

  9. Craig Richardson on June 23rd, 2015 3:20 pm

    Yes it is a tragedy, but Cape Charles beach is one of the safest beaches anywhere. Signs along the drop off to the channel would help, but lifeguards are not needed. If you run rope along the edge of the channel with buoys, the people on jet skis and para-surfers are going to get caught up in it. Both drowning could have been prevented, and it has nothing to do with the town and the way the beach operates. What the town or the rescue department needs to invest in is a UAV with a FLIR camera. The whole beach area could be scanned from above within MINUTES of something being reported — then boats or other rescue personnel can be directed to a location.

  10. Dana Lascu on June 24th, 2015 9:01 am

    Craig, we no longer go to the public beach, the best place to see neighbors and make friends, because of the jet skis. Anything that deters them from coming to the beach would also make the beach safer.

  11. Caroline Lewis on June 24th, 2015 10:02 am

    I couldn’t help but read the above comments. Being the wife of a retired Coast Guardsman I can feel some of the anguish of these families are feeling. We have been stationed near beaches that have roped off areas for swimmers. No one on jet skis, water skis or anything of that nature is allowed near the roped off area. It is a safe haven for swimmers only. A roped off area is definitely needed. It is a simple solution at very little expense to solve a major problem.

  12. Craig Richardson on June 25th, 2015 4:35 pm

    Roping off the area is not the answer, all that’s going to do is cause some other accident! What are you going to say about your great idea then? They need floating markers set along the length of the channel that will warn people of the danger of going beyond that point. That way there is no chance of someone, or something getting hung up on a potential hazard. Now I don’t know how long it took the Coast Guard helicopter to get to Cape Charles, but it the town or rescue personnel had their own UAV with a thermal imaging camera, they could have it in the air in minutes and cover the WHOLE beach area in no time at all!

  13. Melvin W. Williams, Jr CWO, USCG (Ret) on June 25th, 2015 7:33 pm

    I remember losing my best friend a long time ago, who drowned off the beach during the summer after completing our first year of high school at Northampton County High. Walter Mendoza, better known by us as “Baby Brother,” was on his way to the beach with Jimmy Wilkins and beckoned me to join them. My father, hearing this, approved, but strangely enough as I got up to join them, something told me to sit back down. I did, but felt uneasy because he and I went almost everywhere together, especially swimming. Some of us used to sneak off to the beach skinny dipping, but this time I didn’t go and sat down to continue my talk with my neighbor. It wasn’t long afterwards that the alarm sounded for a drowning and I knew already who it was sounding for, an eerie feeling that I can never explain even to this day. After many days of searching, his body was discovered and recovered from the rocks in the jetty, the place where I used to fish. Once while flying over the beach as a Coast Guard Aviation Survival man on a search for a drowning victim, the memories resurfaced. I remembered Baby Brother and Jimmy and the pain and hardship of a loss of life due to drowning. The fear factor was known as sinkholes by the community and sometimes cramps. Therefore you couldn’t eat before going into the water and couldn’t step into holes. There was and still is a lack of knowledge about the characteristic water current and flow such as rip tides caused by the Baltimore Channel. Education about water safety and safeguards should be put in place before the beach activity goes into full gear. I’ve read this article about this drowning and the anguish of the family’s grief and again the memories surface and I grieve too. My background includes water survival and to those ASTs get involved “So Others May Live.” Semper Paratus.

  14. Tim Krawczel on July 2nd, 2015 7:00 am

    Ten years ago, while the first breakwater rock piles in front of the beach were under construction, the then Director of Public Works recognized the potential public safety risk being created…visitors to the beach might climb on the rocks and needed to be warned that they might be slippery. He took it upon himself to research signage and found there are standards of shape, color and wording for public safety signs. After a few hours research he identified the appropriate signs. At a cost of a few hundred dollars the signs were purchased and installed on the breakwaters. Ten years later, probably with zero expenditure on maintenance or upkeep, many of the signs are still in place. There was no need for a Town Council debate on budget, adding staff, or asking permission from a state agency. The Director took the action because it protected and enhanced public safety. Undoubtedly, the tragedy of the first drowning at the drop off to the tidal channel caught Town officials by surprise. However, it is inexplicable to me that such a horrible event had been repeated, yet there are still no signs in front of the drop off that warn visitors wading out in the water of the potential danger.

  15. Deborah & Don Bender on July 2nd, 2015 7:55 am

    Tim, The town says signs have been ordered. Seems like from last August when little Ace drowned to NOW is quite a long time for signs to be made don’t you think ?
    Just my opinion.