A New York engineer who was pulled from the surf on Thursday died of a broken neck, apparently after being hit by a large wave, according to an autopsy.
Drowning was a secondary cause of death, said Dr. Roger Mittleman, Treasure Coast medical examiner.
Stanley Quinn, 58, of Ithaca, was at South Beach Park about noon Thursday when a large wave crashed into him from behind as he stood facing the shore, said Vero Beach Police Capt. Kevin Martin. Rescuers found him face down in the water.
Lifeguards performed CPR until medical crews arrived.
A red flag was posted at the time, warning of hazardous conditions on what otherwise appeared to be “a beautiful day,” said lifeguard Timothy Capra. Winds flattened the ocean, but occasional large swells — up to 5 feet tall — broke close to shore in knee-deep water.
“It sounds like a freak accident,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Randy Lascody, who keeps records of beach deaths. “It is a reminder that you have to be careful in the surf. Water is heavy and has a lot of weight when in large, breaking waves.”