James City County Police have identified a Navy man who died in an apparent drowning while swimming with friends in College Creek.
Walter James Torres Jr., 25, disappeared underwater shortly before 2:30 p.m. Friday while attempting to swim to a sandbar about 50 yards off shore, police said. He was assigned to the USS San Francisco, a submarine based at Naval Station Norfolk.
Torres’ body was recovered around 6:30 p.m. about 25 yards from where he went under, police said. While it appears Torres drowned, the medical examiner’s office will determine the exact cause of death, said James City County Police Deputy Chief Rubino.
Responders from the National Park Service, Virginia Marine Police, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office, the York Fire Department, Newport News Police and James City County Police, Fire and EMS participated in the recovery effort, as did a helicopter from the U.S. Coast Guard, Rubino said.
College Creek has been the site of several drownings in recent years. Last year, Tony Garcia, 23, died when he was caught in a rip current while trying to swim to the sandbar.
Maicoll Gomez, a William & Mary senior from Colombia, said he was playing soccer on the beach with friends when Torres disappeared. Gomez helped pulled two of the Torres’ friends from the water.
Gomez said there were 50 to 60 people on the beach at the time, but police and fire crews evacuated the area as the search began.
Gomez, who is a frequent visitor to the College Creek beach, said there should be more warnings about the dangerous current in the area. Although there are a number of warnings against entering the water posted in the vicinity of the beach, Gomez said too many people ignore them.
“I think this is devastating,” he said. “There should be more signs.”