Body Found After Swimmer Goes Missing in NJ River

The body was in the Raritan River near Perth Amboy

By Pat Battle
|  Thursday, Aug 15, 2013  |  Updated 8:03 PM EDT
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A Perth Amboy man was swimming in a restricted area and suddenly found himself in trouble. People say that's when he pushed children to safety before being dragged out by the current.  Pat Battle reports.

NBC 4 New York

A Perth Amboy man was swimming in a restricted area and suddenly found himself in trouble. People say that's when he pushed children to safety before being dragged out by the current. Pat Battle reports.

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The body of a 29-year-old swimmer who was apparently pulled underwater by strong currents in a New Jersey river has been recovered. 

Jose Ortega Romero was swimming in the Raritan Bay Wednesday evening when he went underwater and never resurfaced. His body was spotted by a fisherman Thursday morning, barely 100 feet from where he was pulled under, and police divers recovered his body.

Officials said Romero was swimming in the bay and came close to the shoreline to play with two children when currents pulled them all out into the water.

"It appeared by the witnesses he made every attempt to push the children to safety, and in doing so he basically sacrificed himself to get them to safety," said Perth Amboy Police Chief Benjaim Ruiz. "They saw him come up once, his hand go up and went down." 

The children, ages 7 and 11, were being watched by a babysitter, who is married to the victim's cousin. They are reported to be physically OK. 

The beach is a recreational, non-swimming beach and there are no lifeguards on duty. Officials warned of the dangerous waters. 

"On top of currents that flow through here, which are very strong, we also have the condition that you start to walk out and you could go out to about 8 feet and all of a sudden, it can drop to 16 and 20 feet," said Ruiz. 

The signs at the beach warning visitors not to swim are frequently vandalized or stolen, but the mayor said they'll be replaced. 

"We will continue to replace the ones that come down," said Mayor Wilda Diaz. "We do have security, a police presence down here all the time. This is such a sad moment for the city and for the family." 

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