Beached whale dies at Rockaway Beach after failed surfer rescue

Beached whale dies at Rockaway Beach after failed surfer rescue

A ragtag group of surfers and construction workers tried to save a beached whale in the Rockaways Tuesday morning by jumping into freezing water in a frantic but futile rescue attempt.

The baby whale was first discovered washing up onto the sand at around 7:30 a.m. Tuesday by the workers, who were building a seawall in the area, the job site superintendent Anthony Rossitto told The Post. 

“A couple of my guys were walking out to the field where their work detail is and they came back in and told me there’s a beached whale out there,” he said. “It still looked like it was flailing. It was alive.”

The group quickly alerted the Parks Department, the NYPD, and the Department of Environmental Conservation that the animal was at the 73 St. & Broadway beach.

But before first responders could get there, the workers and some nearby surfers tried their own rescue attempt.

“A bunch of surfers were in the area and they jumped in the water and tried to turn it around,” Rossitto recounted. “But it’s 35 foot. I can only imagine how much it weighs. They just couldn’t get it turned around and get it back out,”

Whale on Rockaway Beach.
Officials had to drag the whale to the shore after it perished.
Paul Martinka
Whale on Rockaway Beach.
Rescuers tried in vain to save the 30-foot mammal.
Paul Martinka

The whale, which a city park ranger said was likely a calf between 3- to 5-years-old, was “upright…and breathing” but was definitely in “distress,” he added. 

The animal also had clear injuries, including multiple scrapes and bruises. It’s unclear when it was originally beached, and Rossitto surmised it had been banged up against jetty stones. It also wasn’t clear what kind of whale it was, but witnesses suspected it was a sperm whale.

The workers, meanwhile, tried to lash a heavy rope to the whale to pull it, but it was too heavy.

“We did our best. The surfers really tried, but they’re no match for a 35-foot whale,” he said.

Whale on Rockaway Beach.
The whale will undergo an autopsy before being buried.
Paul Martinka

The NYPD confirmed the whale’s death and said they sent an Emergency Services Unit team and a Harbor unit to the scene.

Animal officials are currently en route to the beach where they will perform an autopsy, a city park ranger said. The whale will then be cut apart and buried in the sand under the waterline. 

“It’s a sad day,” said one of the surfers involved in the rescue. 

Additional reporting by Joe Marino.

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