Missing Kite Surfer’s Body Recovered In Long Branch

August 10, 2017
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By Jay Cook |

LONG BRANCH – The body of a kite surfer who went missing off Sandy Hook this past weekend was recovered at Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park on Tuesday afternoon, authorities say.

At about 11:28 a.m. on August 8, the New Jersey State Police recovered a body floating about 200 yards off of the county-operated beach, after a call was made by the City of Long Branch Police Department, according to Lt. Theodore Schafer of the New Jersey State Police.

Schafer said the State Police believes the body is that of Sinisa Bjelajac, 44, of Hoboken. He said Bjelajac’s description, a white male with dark hair and black shorts, matched the body that was recovered.

Also, a New York driver’s license “positively identified the deceased,” he said.

New Jersey State Police crime scene investigators, marine services, and the major crime unit all responded to the call. The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, and police departments from Long Branch and Middletown Township aided in the investigation.

Schafer said it’s “unlikely” that the New Jersey State Police will be working with any New York law enforcement agencies going forward.

The discovery comes four days after a search by the U.S. Coast Guard and numerous other departments was suspended on Saturday, Aug. 5.

Distress calls came into the Coast Guard Sector New York command center on Friday, Aug. 4 at approximately 5 p.m. when a boater said they witnessed a kite surfer “in distress” near Horseshoe Cove, off the coast of Gateway National Recreation Area’s Sandy Hook, according to a U.S. Coast Guard news release.

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According to the report, the boater found Bjelajac unconscious in the water, attached to a kite in a harness. In an effort to rescue Bjelajac, the boater lost their grip when a gust of wind took the kite line out from his hands. He eventually lost sight of Bjelajac in the water, the report says.

An Urgent Marine Information Broadcast (UMIB) was issued and a rescue crew was launched out of the Coast Guard Station Sandy Hook.

A 150-square mile search ensued from Sandy Hook to Coney Island, New York. A total of over 30 search hours by nine different agencies was invested into the recovery mission before it was suspended.

“Suspending a search is one of the most difficult decisions we have to make,” said Cmdr. Brian Murphy, Sector New York search and rescue mission coordinator, in the news release on Saturday afternoon. “After heavily saturating the area with Coast Guard and partner agency assets, we have suspended the active search. We will resume searching if any new information is obtained which would assist us in locating the missing kite surfer.”

After recovery, Bjelajac’s body was sent to the Middlesex County Medical Examiner’s Office, for an autopsy.

“We can’t speculate on what the cause of this person’s demise was, but our investigation will lead us to some sort of logical conclusion,” Schafer said.

This article was first published in the August 10-17, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.

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