Photos courtesy of Mark A. Alston III/Jalan Alston of Brooklyn, NY gave his life to save his friends.


VENTNOR – “He was only 18, but I think what he did was heroic,” Mark A. Alston III, 23, of Brooklyn, NY, said about his brother Jalan, whose body was recovered from the ocean Saturday afternoon.

Jalan, a recent graduate of George Westinghouse High School in Brooklyn, was “a big kid” his brother said, and physically capable of saving his two friends from drowning in the Atlantic Ocean off Victoria Avenue.

“He was 6 feet tall, about 170 pounds, and fit enough to be able to push them to safety,” Mark Alston said.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jalan was not able to celebrate graduation on June 31 like teens do in normal years, so he and his friends decided to go to Atlantic City to celebrate. They walked to the beach, and the girls, who were not identified but reported to be the same age, jumped into the ocean as tropical storm Fay churned. He went out after them and pushed them to shore, but the waves were too strong an pulled him out, his brother said.

“He was a stand-up, solid guy. Respectable and a hard worker,” Mark said.

Jalan was able to get a decent job for the summer, and he planned to either go to college in September or take the Civil Service test so he could work for the city, his brother said.

“He doesn’t have an enemy in the world and always did the right thing. Since news about this broke in the neighborhood, people I don’t even know have been contacting me to say what a great guy he was.”

According to the Ventnor City Police Department, dispatch received a 911 call at 6:53 p.m. Friday, July 10 reporting a swimmer in distress in the Atlantic Ocean off Victoria Avenue. Police responded within minutes and spotted Jalan about 50 yards off the beach about four blocks away near Oxford Avenue. The two female swimmers who were in the water with the victim were able to make it safely to shore, they said.

Police, fire and beach patrol personnel from Ventnor, Margate, Longport and Atlantic City responded to assist in the search for Jalan. The U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City sent an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter and a 47-foot Motor Life Boat crew to search the 58-square-miles over air, sea and land for 13 hours. The rescue operation was called off at 8:58 p.m. as darkness fell, but the Coast Guard continued the search until Saturday.

“Our deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of Jalan,” said Capt. Jonathan Theel, commander of Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay. “It’s always difficult to suspend a case and it weighs especially heavy on our hearts knowing that he was helping others.”

Two Atlantic City Beach Patrol lifeguards recovered Jalan’s body from the ocean near Albany Avenue at 6:20 p.m. Saturday.

Jalan was not the only person to succumb to the ocean’s fury.

Atlantic City Beach Patrol lifeguards pulled an unconscious Gustave Vincolato, 77, of Folcroft, Pa., from the ocean at Ohio Avenue around 3 p.m. Thursday, July 9. They performed CPR and transported him to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center in Atlantic City where he was pronounced deceased by emergency room doctors. An autopsy will determine the cause of death.

Two 18-year-old women were rescued in Ocean City Saturday morning and reports stated six other people had to be pulled from the rough surf.

Rip currents are expected to linger on Sunday.

As soon as Mark heard that his brother was missing in the storm, he drove to a hotel in Atlantic City and his parents joined him later.

“They are keeping it together, but obviously it’s very painful for them,” he said.

“People should know he was not a selfish person and always looked out for other people. He was only 18, but I think what he did was so heroic, especially because he could have saved himself,” Mark said.

The family plans to take Jalan back to New York where he will be put to rest and honored appropriately.

“We will have him brought home and set up a memorial service to honor what he did and celebrate his life.”

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Nanette LoBiondo Galloway

Award winning journalist covering news, events and people of Atlantic County for more than 20 years.