Man drowns off Cherry Grove

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Monday July 20, 2009

A man from Queens drowned Saturday afternoon while swimming near Ivy Walk in Cherry Grove.

The Suffolk County Police Department identified the man as Rahul Bhola, 22, of Flushing. Bhola was swimming in chest deep water with another man around 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 18. Police said he stepped further into the water and a strong current pulled him out to sea. The man with whom Bhola was swimming unsuccessfully tried to rescue him.

Members of the Cherry Grove Fire Department and lifeguards from Sailors Haven were among those who responded to the scene. They performed life saving measures on Bhola on the beach. A Suffolk County Police helicopter transported Bhola to Stony Brook University Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

Ismael Flores of Astoria, Queens, told the Fire Island News he saw a number of firefighters pull someone out of the water as he lay on the beach. He said hundreds of people were on the beach at the time, but a persistent southwesterly flow had kicked-up the surf. Flores further described the man firefighters pulled out of the ocean as having a bloody eye and cuts around his eyebrow and near his hairline.

"He looked like wax," Flores said.

Members of the Cherry Grove Community Association held a moment of silence in Bhola's memory at their annual summer meeting yesterday.

"I was just begging to God not to take him," Flores said. "It was just a tragedy."

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.