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From the currents off Rhode Island, a double tragedy

A family member at the scene during the search in Warwick, R.I. on Monday.
A family member at the scene during the search in Warwick, R.I. on Monday.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

WARWICK, R.I. — The body of a 10-year-old girl was recovered from Narragansett Bay Monday, a day after strong currents swept her off a sandbar and a bystander died trying to save her.

In the latest of a series of drownings across New England this month, Yoskarly Martinez went missing in the waters off Conimicut Point Park on Sunday afternoon. After an overnight search, her body was found shortly before 1 p.m. in water less than 6 feet deep.

“The police and fire divers were able to walk out there from a boat and were able to actually retrieve her,” said Robert Hart, captain of the Warwick Police Department’s marine and dive team.

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Authorities identified the man who saw the girl struggling in the water and tried to rescue her as Valentin Cardona Sanchez, 35.

“He lost his life trying to save the child,” Mayor Frank Picozzi of Warwick wrote on Facebook. “He was a hero.”

Sanchez, who lived in Central Falls, R.I., did not know the girl, who lived in Providence, officials said. Officials had previously reported Martinez’s age as 11, and Sanchez’s age as 30.

The sandbar, a popular spot that at low tide stretches nearly to a lighthouse, is dangerous because of strong undercurrents and onrushing tides that can pull swimmers away.

“The currents are very strong here,” said Dean Hoxsie, law enforcement chief of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. “It’s a dangerous place. It really is.”

The girl’s body was found about 100 yards from the lighthouse, an official said.

Over the years, the swift currents have claimed the lives of children and those who have tried to save them. The last drowning was in 2013, when a 16-year-old boy from Providence was swept off the sandbar. Warning signs were posted in the area after a man drowned trying to save two children there in 1998.

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Divers conducted a search in waters off Conimicut Point Park on Monday. The body of a 10-year-old girl was found in an area that is known for strong rip currents.
Divers conducted a search in waters off Conimicut Point Park on Monday. The body of a 10-year-old girl was found in an area that is known for strong rip currents.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

“It’s always been a dangerous area,” Picozzi said Monday. “We can’t tell people they can’t go there. They have a right to shore access. But the sandbar disappears with the tide.”

The 10-year-old was at the beach with her family when she went missing, officials said. The two other men who went into the water to save her, including her uncle, were rescued and taken to a hospital; their identities and conditions were not disclosed. One of the men was on a breathing tube Sunday, an official said.

The drownings in Rhode Island were the latest in a tragic stretch since the weather turned warm and residents headed to beaches, ponds, and backyard pools for relief.

Around the same time that Cardona Sanchez was brought ashore Sunday evening, a teenage boy drowned in Sebbins Pond in Bedford, N.H., police said. One day earlier, 1-year-old Angelo Nicoloro drowned in a pool during a family barbecue in Wrentham.

On June 11, 17-year-old Alonzo Polk died in a Boston hospital after being pulled from a backyard swimming pool in Dedham five days earlier, according to authorities.

On June 7, a 16-year-old boy died after being pulled from Lake Gardner in Amesbury, officials said. One day before that, a 19-year-old Brockton man drowned at Mound Street Beach in Quincy.

On June 5, a man drowned at White Island Pond, the Plymouth Fire Department said.

A man drowned while swimming at Houghton’s Pond in Milton on May 27, officials said. One day earlier, a 16-year-old boy drowned in Learned Pond in Framingham.

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On May 15, cousins Rafael Andrade Nunes, 13, and Tiago Nunes Ledo-De Pina, 12, drowned at Waldo Lake in Brockton despite frantic efforts to save them.

Posted warning signs.
Posted warning signs.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

In Warwick, a Coast Guard helicopter flew in from Cape Cod late Monday morning after the fog lifted over Narragansett Bay. Crews searched an area of Narragansett Bay as far south as Prudence Island and Colt State Park in Bristol and as far north as Barrington and up into the Providence River, Hoxsie said.

The current runs three to four knots in either direction, and the Coast Guard used the current, southwesterly winds, and incoming tide to guide their search, he said.

On Sunday, some crews suspended their search around 10 p.m. while the Coast Guard Cutter Coho was brought in to continue looking overnight.

The water temperature at Conimicut Light was 71.8 degrees on Sunday.

There are no multilingual warning signs at Conimicut Point, which is owned by the city of Warwick. When the pandemic began last year and people were urged to spend time outside, the state’s recreation areas began seeing more visitors who did not speak English, Hoxsie said. That’s when the state began to realize that multilingual signs are needed, he said.

“It’s dangerous out there,” said Ron Gerry, who said he has lived in the area for 65 years. “You can’t walk on the sandbar. The current takes you down once it gets running. I mean, it runs hard.”

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“They’ve got a sign over there ... but it’s in English,” he added. “They should put it in Spanish and Chinese and couple other [languages].”

Globe correspondent Jeremy Fox contributed to this report.


Amanda Milkovits can be reached at amanda.milkovits@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMilkovits. Alexandra Chaidez can be reached at alexandra.chaidez@globe.com. Nick Stoico can be reached at nick.stoico@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickStoico.