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Girl, 7, dies after pulled into sea by hurricane waves

She was among thousands in Maine watching the high surf fueled by Hurricane Bill.

August 24, 2009|Associated Press

PORTLAND, MAINE — A large wave fueled by Hurricane Bill swept a group of surf-watchers into the sea at a national park in Maine on Sunday, including a 7-year-old girl who died after the Coast Guard pulled her from the churning waters.

The girl, her father and a 12-year-old girl who were all visiting Acadia National Park were plucked from the water by rescuers. The man and the 12-year-old were hospitalized.

The three were part of an early afternoon crowd of thousands who lined the park's rocky shoreline to watch the high surf and crashing waves, which were "absolutely the effects of Hurricane Bill" coupled with the effect of high tide, said Sonya Berger, a park ranger.

The man and his daughter are from New York, Acadia National Park Chief Ranger Stuart West said. The 12-year-old girl is from Belfast, Maine, and is not related to them, West said. He would not release their names.

Waves swept over 20 people at Acadia National Park, about 110 miles northeast of Portland, Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Adam Sansoucie said. West said 11 people were taken to the hospital, mainly for broken bones after being slammed onto the rocks.

West said people occasionally slip on the rocks into the ocean, but it's unusual for them to be swept away by waves.

James Kaiser of Bar Harbor, Maine, was taking photographs when he heard shouts that people had been swept into the 55-degree water at the park's Thunder Hole, a popular tourist attraction where waves often crash into a crevasse and make a thundering sound.

"I could see two people's heads bobbing in the water," Kaiser said. He said he thought they would be bounced back to shore because the waves were coming in so hard, but instead the current took them away.

A rope closed off a viewing platform at Thunder Hole, but hundreds watched from nearby rocks, Kaiser said. Many people didn't even move when they were splashed by the waves and instead seemed to laugh it off, he said.

The hurricane was also blamed for the death of a 54-year-old swimmer Saturday in Florida. Volusia County Beach Patrol Capt. Scott Petersohn said Angel Rosa of Orlando washed ashore unconscious near rough waves fueled by Bill at New Smyrna Beach, along the central Florida coast. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Lifeguards there also rescued a handful of other swimmers believed to have suffered spinal injuries.

The center of the hurricane was about 230 miles west of Newfoundland, Canada, on Sunday night, according to the National Hurricane Center. It had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, and it was moving northeast at 35 mph. The storm is expected to continue to lose strength as it moves over cooler waters.

The storm delayed or halted ferry services from New York to Maine and kept many beaches closed.

In Montauk, N.Y., swimmers weren't allowed in the water, but surfers were riding the waves. State parks spokesman George Gorman said almost 2,000 surfers showed up at Montauk on Sunday -- the most ever counted there. The waves reached 16 feet.

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