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Jul 6, 2010 6:38 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

More bones discovered along beaches in western Southampton Town

Jul 6, 2010 6:38 PM

What appeared to be several parts of a human skeleton washed up on ocean beaches across western Southampton Town last week, with findings concentrated in Westhampton Beach.

All of the bones—more than 10 in total—have been passed on to the Suffolk County medical examiner’s office, where coroners are trying to determine their origin, Town Police said. Tests are being run to see whether or not the skeletal remains came from a swimmer who disappeared while swimming off Cupsogue Beach County Park in Westhampton on June 6. The body of the man, 31-year-old Xiangyong Chen of Brooklyn, was never recovered.

The first discovery came on the morning of Wednesday, June 30, when a beachgoer found a large portion of a spine washed up between the Ponquogue Beach pavilion and Road I in Hampton Bays shortly before 11 a.m. that day, according to Southampton Town Police. Town Police Detective Tim Wilson said beachgoers alerted lifeguards about the spine—which he said could be human or animal—and the lifeguards called a Southampton Town bay constable, who in turn notified police.

Then came a slew of similar discoveries in Westhampton Beach. Last Thursday, July 1, patrons and staff of beaches in the village stumbled across a human jawbone with its teeth mostly intact, a curved bone that appeared to be a rib, a 14-inch bone, two 12-inch bones and an 8-inch bone, according to Westhampton Beach Village Police Detective Ed Hamor. The remains were found in the sand at a number of Dune Road beaches, including Lashley Beach, La Ronde Beach Club, Swordfish Beach Club and Quantuck Beach Club, Det. Hamor said.

Tim Carbone, the manager of Swordfish Beach Club, said staff members approached him with three bones that were found in the vicinity of his club last week—the first such case that he was aware of. “One was a tibia,” he said. “It was like, ‘Whoa, this looks like a tibia.’”

On Friday afternoon, two more bones were found by lifeguards at La Ronde Beach Club: a straight bone approximately 9 inches long, and a smaller one alongside it, Det. Hamor said.

Also last Thursday, July 1, a beachgoer in East Quogue came upon a long straight bone at a beach on Dune Road, near Triton Lane, that appeared to be a femur, according to Town Police Detective Sergeant Randy Hintze. That patron took the bone home before notifying authorities, Det. Sgt. Hintze said.

Finally, on Monday afternoon, a Southampton Town Parks and Recreation Department worker reported finding several unspecified bones washed up near Road H in Hampton Bays, near the western edge of Shinnecock Inlet, Det. Sgt. Hintze said. He could offer no further information about that discovery on Tuesday.

Quogue Village Police said Tuesday that no bones have washed ashore in their jurisdiction.

Mr. Carbone said that rough seas last week could have dredged up objects that had settled on the ocean floor. “Every once in a while, we get this strange wash-up of debris on the beach—and they’re debris that look like they’ve been on the bottom for a while,” he said.

Coroners with the Suffolk County medical examiner’s office declined to comment on the investigation on Tuesday.

“They say they have nothing to report,” said Carol Downing, a spokeswoman for the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.

Detective Lieutenant Gerard Pelkofsky, head of the Suffolk County Police Department Homicide Squad, said Tuesday that the bones are being examined to see if they came from Mr. Chen, although conclusive results could take until the fall. No other missing persons are being considered as possible matches at the moment, Det. Lt. Pelkofsky said.

“We’re going to run tests to see if they are Mr. Chen’s,” he said of the bones. “At this point, we don’t have any idea. We’ve been in contact with the family to arrange for the tests to be done, and they could take two, three months.”

Suffolk County Police are handling Mr. Chen’s case. Both Det. Sgt. Hintze and Det. Hamor said that they have no ongoing missing person investigations in their respective departments.

Mr. Chen and his friend, 26-year-old Deng Zheng, were swimming in the ocean off an unsupervised section of Cupsogue Beach on the morning of June 6 when witnesses said a large wave apparently swamped them approximately 50 yards from the shore, police said. Mr. Zheng was recovered from the water by two lifeguards who initiated CPR, but he was pronounced dead at Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead at 12:17 p.m. that day. Mr. Chen has been missing since.

It is conceivable that Mr. Chen’s body was stripped to the bone by sea life and the scouring action of waves and tides over the last month, according to Det. Sgt. Hintze.

Also, it is not unprecedented for a drowning victim’s body to travel long distances in the ocean before washing ashore, as happened in East Hampton Town. On the morning of May 24, the body of a Chinese kayaker, 32-year-old Fengquan Guan of Beijing, washed up on the ocean beach in Amagansett, according to police. Authorities said Mr. Guan, who launched his kayak in Connecticut, disappeared somewhere on the Long Island Sound.

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I doubt the body decomposed in the ocean, it was much more likely eaten by various forms of sea life. Crabs would probably do most of the munching.
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Jul 5, 10 7:39 PM
maybe it was a sea monster-where are the "beach closed" signs Brody?
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Jul 5, 10 9:37 PM
Poor man.
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Jul 6, 10 9:39 AM
With the currents, it's possible it could be him...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jul 6, 10 2:41 PM
By ELECTRICUTIONER (65), east islip/montauk on Jul 6, 10 5:34 PM
why did Big P get on that boat?!?
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Jul 7, 10 7:29 AM
dem bones , dem bones , dem dry bones...
By PrivateerMatt (390), Weesuck Creek , EQ on Jul 6, 10 5:49 PM
Thank you, Alice in Chains...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jul 7, 10 2:41 AM
Sometimes you just gotta role the bones.
By Feeney57 (3), Westhampton on Jul 8, 10 8:44 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Jul 8, 10 11:39 PM
There was an architect some years ago who used to go for a morning swim in summer before work. He would fold his work clothes neatly on the beach and then swim out. One day he never returned. A month later his pelvis washed up on the beach pristinely free of the smallest shred of flesh. After the larger predatory fish were through with his body, the sand fleas picked it perfectly clean.

I would be surprised if this is the body of the man mentioned. The ocean beaches are such a preferred ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jul 10, 10 1:13 PM