Father of girl who drowned at Conimicut Point Beach in 2008 warns “there will be more deaths”
WARWICK, R.I. (WLNE) – Calls for safety continue at Conimicut Point Beach after the death of a 10-year-old girl and 35-year-old man who recently drowned there.
However, it’s not the first tragedy there. Several people have died over the years due to rough waters at the sand bar.
ABC 6 News spoke exclusively to the father of one of those victims who says there will be more deaths if changes are not made.
“Every day that I close my eyes, I see my daughter’s face and I think about her. Every time I wake up, I think about my daughter. I have never stopped thinking about my daughter.”
Simon Martinez spoke through tears about memories of his daughter, Tiffany Martinez, that would’ve turned 27 Tuesday. Tiffany died 13 years ago at Conimicut Point Beach on her 14th birthday.
Reports from 2008 say that Tiffany was playing on the sand bar when the two children got knocked over by a wave and swept away. Tiffany went in to help, saving the two kids. She was later rushed to the hospital.
“She saved both kids, but she swallowed so much water that she suffered what they called a dry drowning,” Martinez said. “She died in my arms. A father should never have to bury his daughter.”
Her father says he was inclined to speak out after all these years when he heard about the recent drowning killing 10-year-old Yosarkly Martinez and 35-year-old Cardona Sanchez. That was in addition to a death in 2013, where 16-year-old Javon Jimenez died after drowning in the same spot. All victims were Hispanic.
“People are language barriered,” Martinez said. “I’m not using it as an excuse, but they really can’t interpret those signs as to be an inherent danger.”
Up until recently, warnings were only written in English. A piece of paper put up in the last week now warns of a dangerous current in Spanish.
Mayor Frank Picozzi says they plan to add many more signs in several languages.
“We’re going to be ordering more signs; big signs and in different spots,” Mayor Picozzi said. “They’ll be multilingual and we’re going to put a QR code on it. Everyone has a smart phone now; it’ll take you to the website and warn of the dangers in multiple languages.”
The Mayor says it’ll take time to make these changes and get the signs made, but he’s working as quickly as he can.
He also said he’s received a lot of requests to block off the sandbar, but he says he can’t do that because it’s illegal to restrict access to shoreline. ABC 6 News asked if he’s considered supervision like lifeguards, but he says he doesn’t want to encourage people to swim in the area. He also says there’s a shortage of lifeguards across the state and like many other cities, he can’t properly staff the beaches that are legal to swim on.