Other NJ News

Girls Identified in Tragic Incident off Belmar Beach as More Details Emerge on Rescue and Recovery Efforts

As members of the Belmar community left the prayer service at St. Rose Church for Hernandez and Gonzalez-Perez, those who know both girls kept on asking each other how such a tragedy could occur. Credits: Cathy Goetz
From left, good samaritans James Lavalle of Tinton Falls, Emma Kowalcyk of Belmar and JeanMarie Ceravolo-Schulman of Wall talk to reporters about their roles in the tragic event. Credits: Cathy Goetz

BELMAR, NJ — The 13-year-old girl who drowned off the Belmar beach on Thursday, June 15, has been identified as Mitzi Hernandez and her 12-year-old cousin who remains on life-support as Emily Gonzalez-Perez, according to officials.

Gonzalez-Perez, remains in critical condition at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Neptune. The incident is still currently under investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office and Belmar Police Department.

The girls’ names were released shortly after dozens of people gathered at St. Rose Catholic Church this afternoon, June 16, for a prayer service for the two Belmar Elementary School students. Hernandez was a sixth-grader at the school, while Gonzalez-Perez just completed fifth grade.

Sign Up for E-News

As members of the Belmar community left the church, those who know both girls — friends, classmates, teachers — kept asking each other how such a tragedy could occur.

Also attending the service were three people — two of whom did not know the other person until the tragic accident brought them together. They said they tried to rescue the second girl from the surf off the Ninth Avenue beach as rescue attempts were under way with the first girl.

JeanMarie Ceravolo-Schulman of Wall said she was at the beach with her three young children when she saw the second girl, who she identified as Hernandez, in the water.

“I saw her, and kicked off my shoes and threw my sunglasses, and went in [the water]. There was no time to think; I was screaming and screaming for help,” she said.

Her screams drew the attention of James Lavalle of Tinton Falls and Emma Kowalcyk of Belmar, who were nearby on the beach. That was when Lavalle went to help Ceravolo-Schulman pull Hernandez to shore, as Kowalcyk said she called 911.

“She was completely under [the water],” Lavalle recalled.

“Another woman came and helped with CPR, then the rescue team and police came and did everything they could. We all did everything we could,” Ceravolo-Schulman said.

Kowalcyk was particularly distraught today, she said, because her younger brother, Cameron, was a classmate of Hernandez.

“I’m just so upset over this. I just can’t believe it happened,” she said, wiping tears from her cheeks.

Grief counseling sessions were held today at Belmar Elementary School — the last day of the school year for students and the day after its 55-member eighth-grade class participated in their graduation ceremony. As the graduation was under way, the massive emergency scene was playing out six blocks away on Belmar’s beachfront.

“A tragedy like this has shaken our community,” Mayor Matthew Doherty said. “We have to figure out a way so that something like this doesn’t happen again.”

The girls were swimming unsupervised, and lifeguards were not on duty at the time of the accident. Weekly lifeguard hours start the Monday following the last day of school, and once they do, hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Weekend hours are from 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. and have been in effect since Memorial Day.

According to the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, a 911 call was transferred into Belmar Police headquarters at 6:19 p.m. for “a distressed person in the ocean.” A Belmar patrolman and a member of the water rescue team arrived on the scene at 10th and Ocean avenues, and swam out to rescue the victim, now identified as Gonzalez-Perez, who is fighting for her life at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

At approximately 6:54 p.m., as a search of the area was conducted, a second victim, now identified at Hernandez, was located unconscious in the ocean. Police and emergency personnel removed the victim and began CPR until first aid arrived and transported her to JSUMC, where she was pronounced dead, according to the prosecutor’s office statement.

For nearly four hours, until after 10 p.m., a full-block area of the beachfront along Ocean Avenue from Eighth to Ninth Avenue was closed off as police, fire and emergency responders converged to assist with the search, rescue and recovery effort. They included members from the Monmouth County Emergency Response Team, U.S. Coast Guard, N.J. State Police, Belmar Water Rescue, Manasquan Fire Department, Monmouth County Fire Marshall's Office, Manasquan Fire Department, Avon-by-the-Sea Police Department, Bradley Beach Police Department and paramedics.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Darby Road's St. Patrick's Day Festival Kicks Off

March 17, 2018

SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ — Darby Road Public House (450 Park Ave., Scotch Plains) kicked off its three-day St. Patrick’s Day Festival on Friday at the municipal parking lot.

The event takes place under a larger tent this year and features Irish bands, Irish step dancers, bagpipers, food and beverages, along with a bounce house, face -painting, and pony rides for the kids.

Mayor Brindle’s Update, Feb. 13

March 14, 2018

The following are highlights from the update that Mayor Shelley Brindle gave at Tuesday night’s town council meeting.

Last week’s back to back nor’easters left a wave of destruction that Westfield hasn’t experienced since Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Three thousand homes lost power. Over 40 roads were closed due to downed wires and/or trees. Our police responded to ...

Westfield Police Blotter: DWI, Reported Fraud & More

March 14, 2018

March 7, 2018 2:06 a.m.

Carlos C. Mendoza, age 33, of Garwood, NJ, was arrested on the strength of three Westfield Municipal Court warrants ($750) pursuant to a traffic stop in the area of South Avenue in Scotch Plains. Subject was transported to Westfield Police HQ where he was processed and refused after posting bail.


March 9, 2018 2:09 p.m.

A resident of Sandra Circle ...

Franklin 5th Graders Perform ‘Shrek The Musical JR’

March 17, 2018

All of our differences make us unique. That theme pervaded the third annual Fifth Grade Show at Franklin Elementary School in Westfield, “Shrek The Musical JR.,” performed on March 2 and 3. 

“I’m so proud of our cast and crew for all their hard work and dedication to making this year’s show such a success,” said Emma Schwartz, director and producer of ...

Charitable Spirit Alive and Well in Westfield Public Schools

Students, staff and parents in Westfield Public Schools continue the district’s long tradition of helping others both in and outside of the community, with a number of students recently recognized for their efforts.

Fifteen Westfield High School juniors and sophomores were honored by the Community Food Bank of New Jersey for collecting more than 5,000 pounds of food items for families in ...


AtlantiCast: Episode 13

On this episode of AtlantiCast, new clinical studies in the fields of cardiology and immunotherapy, national and statewide recognitions for Atlantic Health System medical centers and the inaugural AtlantiCast Collab Challenge!


8 Homes Sold Last Week in Westfield, Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Cranford and Mountainside

Eight homes sold last week, March 4 to March 11, 2018, in Westfield, Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Cranford and Mountainside.*


 TOWN                  ADDRESS             ...

The Day After

Some years ago, the United Nations held the International Summit on Sustainable Development, here in Johannesburg. The Summit was a great success. One wonders, though, whether all the wonderful decisions and resolutions that were adopted were ever implemented. In other words, were they themselves sustainable?

Good ideas and worthwhile projects are suggested regularly. The question is, do they ...

Auction Items Sought for Westfield Area YMCA 14th Annual Golf Classic

The Westfield Area Y is hosting the 14th Annual Golf Classic and Dinner with Live and Silent Auction on Monday, May 14, at Echo Lake Country Club in Westfield. All proceeds will benefit the Y’s financial assistance program and help send a kid to camp or child care at the Y this year.

If you have a vacation home or time share, access to a fine dining establishment, ...

How to Stay Connected to Your Partner After a Newborn

March 11, 2018

Life changes instantly once we have a newborn.  It is one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences a couple can have. It brings joy and a newfound commitment to the relationship and now to a family of three. Grandparents, family and friends are eager to get involved with helping and visiting. Responsibilities increase, expenses increase and privacy decreases. Our routine ...

Profit from Recent Volatility with Stock Market Bargains

Markets retreated in February, the worst down month in two years. A record surge in volatility caused several ETFs designed as leveraged bets on low volatility to plunge, with at least one being forced to liquidate and hand its investors a near total loss.

The Causes of February’s Market Retreat

The initial catalyst for the sell off was inflation. The January jobs report showed ...


Kathleen Marie Christian (nee Helmstetter), age 73 of Surf City, NJ, passed away peacefully at home ...
Read more

Health Alert: Child with Measles Traveled to Newark Airport on March 12

March 15, 2018

TRENTON, NJ — If you were at Newark Liberty International Airport on Monday, March 12 between 12:45 and 9 p.m., you may have been exposed to measles and should contact your health care provider.

The New Jersey Department of Health has issued a public health alert after a child with a confirmed case of measles — a highly contagious disease — arrived in Terminal B at ...