The 34th Street beach mat which extends to the tide line will be emulated with plans for others at the some of the city’s beaches. By Donald WittkowskiFor many beachgoers, the trips across the sand are a relative breeze, a short trek while heading for a favorite spot near the water’s edge.For others, though, the deep, powdery beach sand is like trudging through a desert, one challenging step after another. It is especially difficult for senior citizens, people with disabilities and families with young children or baby strollers.But at the 34th Street beach, a 200-foot-long blue mat made of hard plastic creates a pathway that allows everyone to walk on top of the sand instead of getting bogged down in it. The mat also makes it much easier for people in wheelchairs to gain access across the beach.In what is Ocean City’s latest project to improve access to its beaches, the long mat at 34th Street extends all the way to the high tide line and is part of a test program this summer. It offers an amenity for some, and to others, it provides the only way to easily access the beach.“I love this. I really love it how easy it is,” beachgoer Laura Tucker said as she pushed her 3-year-old daughter, Gemma, across the mat while the little girl sat in a baby stroller. “Without it, it would be so hard for me that it would be nearly impossible.”Tucker, a summer vacationer from Swoyersville, Pa., noted that the mats are also a great help to beachgoers who don’t have young children. She said longer mats would make it easier for people to lug chairs, umbrellas and other beach gear through the sand.“It’s more convenient for everyone, even people who don’t have strollers,” she said in an interview Thursday.The distinctive blue mat, made of hard plastic, sits on top of the sand to create an easy-to-walk pathway.Last summer, Brigantine installed beach mats to the shoreline at its 16th Street beach, making it possible for people in wheelchairs to get close to the ocean. Ocean City modeled the plan for 34th Street after Brigantine’s project.City officials will monitor 34th Street over the summer to see if more mats should be extended all the way to the high tide line at other beaches in town. Through the first two months of summer, the experiment at 34th Street appears to be a success, Councilman Bob Barr said.“So far, I’ve heard positive feedback from beachgoers, from residents and from the city administration,” Barr said.Barr, a Fourth Ward councilman whose district includes 34th Street, has been one of the city’s leading advocates for creating more access to the beaches. He and other members of City Council have worked with Mayor Jay Gillian’s administration on the project.Born with cerebral palsy, Barr uses a wheelchair for his mobility. He said he tried out the mat at 34th Street earlier this summer for a trip to the beach.“It worked for me,” he said. “It makes it much easier to use your own wheelchair that you’re comfortable with.”The longer beach mat at 34th Street puts people closer to the water’s edge.The extra-long mat at 34th Street serves as a trial run because it is the only one of its kind that extends all the way to the high tide line, Barr said. Ocean City has mobility mats at more than 50 beaches in town, but they are shorter than the one at 34th Street and don’t come as close to the water.The mat on 34th Street effectively creates a sitting area closer to the ocean for people in wheelchairs. City spokesman Doug Bergen said other beaches are being considered for wheelchair access and sitting areas.“Limiting factors for the expansion of the program include the need to keep the mats clear of sand throughout the day (particularly on the paths for wheelchairs), as they are extremely popular with people without disabilities, and the need to be able to remove them from the beach quickly in the event of a major storm,” Bergen said in an email.There are two more wheelchair sitting areas in Ocean City. One is at Surf Road in conjunction with a new ramp to the beach. The other is at the Ocean City Beach Patrol station between 58th and 59th streets, just off the handicap-accessible ramp to the beach, Bergen said.At 34th Street, the entire path to the beach is about 450 feet from the restrooms. About 200 feet of that pathway is a distinctive blue mat stretching out to the sitting area, Bergen said.“There are approximately 80 mat sections that make up the path and sitting area. The approximate cost of the mat material alone is $13,200,” he said.The 34th Street beach also includes dune crossovers and handrails. The city also has a program that provides beach-accessible wheelchairs at no cost.The beach-accessible wheelchairs are equipped with extra-large rubber wheels to make them easier to push through the sand. Gayla Frantz, seated in a beach wheelchair, is pushed by Dave Law, while her daughter, Danielle Frantz, right, and Christina Morales watch.Danielle Frantz, a vacationer from Philadelphia, uses a beach wheelchair for her 65-year-old mother, Gayla Frantz, who has a disability. Danielle Frantz said the beach wheelchairs can be hard to push in the sand, underscoring what she believes is a critical need for even more mobility mats.“Yes, we have problems walking through the sand,” she said. “Going back and forth to the bathroom is miserable.”Frantz, however, is happy that the 34th Street beach includes a mat that extends closer to the water.“This is quite easier, for sure,” she noted. “They should do this at more places.”Frantz’s boyfriend, Dave Law, said the deep, soft sand can be even harder to walk cross while carrying bags and other beach gear. Mobility mats that extend closer to the water would make Ocean City’s beaches even more popular with vacationers, he believes.“I think it would encourage more people to come here,” Law said.Beach wheelchairs equipped with extra-large rubber wheels are available outside the first aid station at the entrance to the 34th Street beach.
McIlory was handed a walkover in his second group game against Gary Woodland, but was knocked out after Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen won his second match 4 and 3.Lowry meanwhile lost to Jon Rahm overnight.Both players play their final group games later today, with McIlroy meeting Emiliano Grillo and Lowry taking on Kevin Chappell.
Around 9:42 a.m. PT (5:45 pm in Ghana) Hours before their fatal helicopter crash, Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna were taking communion before an early-morning church service.Minutes before the crash, their pilot was trying to get special permission to fly though foggy conditions.Seconds before the crash that killed all nine people on board, the pilot told air traffic control he was trying to avoid a cloud layer. It was the last time anyone on the ground heard from him.While federal investigators try to determine what caused the crash, excerpts of air traffic control recordings help build a timeline of what happened in the flight’s final moments. The Sikorsky S-76B helicopter takes off from Orange County, California, according to the flight tracking site FlightRadar24.com.The helicopter was headed from the southern Los Angeles area to the northern Los Angeles suburbs.Bryant was supposed to coach a youth basketball team, the Lady Mambas, at their 12 p.m. game in Thousand Oaks, California. Gianna, 13, was on that team. Two other girls in the helicopter, Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester, were also on board. Around 9:21 a.m. PT (5:21 pm in Ghana) Around 9:24 a.m. PT (5:24 pm in Ghana)An air traffic controller says “it’s gonna be a little bit” before the pilot can continue.“OK, we’ll continue holding,” Zobayan replies.A National Transportation Safety Board member later said there was a delay because of traffic.Around 9:33 a.m. PT (5:33 pm in Ghana) Source: CNN 9:06 a.m. PT Sunday (5:06 pm in Ghana) The helicopter heads north. Air traffic control tells the pilot to “follow the 5 Freeway” and maintain SVFR conditions.The pilot confirms he heard the instructions: “Maintain special VFR at or below 2500, I-5 northbound.”Later, the Burbank air traffic controller tells the pilot to switch to Van Nuys air traffic control.The pilot contacts the Van Nuys tower: “Van Nuys, Helicopter 2EX with you for the special VFR transition. We are currently at 1400.”The controller tells the pilot: “Wind calm, visibility 2 1/2 , ceiling 1100 overcast, Van Nuys altimeters 30.16. Cleared into Van Nuys Class D northeast of Van Nuys.”At one point, the pilot requested flight following, which is radar assistance for a flight that helps the pilot avoid traffic, NTSB member Jennifer Homendy said.But air traffic control said the helicopter was too low to provide flight following assistance, Homendy said.The pilot told air traffic control he was going to climb higher to avoid a cloud layer. It was his last transmission. An air traffic controller tries to contact the pilot, but gets no response.“72EX, you’re following a 1200 code. So you’re requesting flight following?” the controller asks.“Say intentions,” the controller adds. “You’re still too low level for flight following at this time.” 9:45 a.m. PT (5:45 pm in Ghana)The helicopter falls off the radar, the NTSB said.9:47 a.m. PT (5:47 pm in Ghana)The first 911 call comes in about the crash, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said.12 p.m. PT (8:00 pm in Ghana)The Lady Mambas’ basketball game is scheduled to begin at Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks. The helicopter starts circling over Glendale, California, close to the city of Burbank.“Helicopter 2EX, hold outside Burbank Class C airspace. I have an aircraft going around,” an air traffic controller says.“2EX, holding,” the pilot replies.Air traffic control audio indicates the pilot, Ara Zobayan, had requested SVFR clearance, or special visual flight rules clearance.SVFR clearance allows a pilot to fly in weather conditions worse than those allowed for regular visual flight rules. Sunday morning, the Los Angeles Police Department had grounded its helicopters because of low visibility from fog.Pilots sometimes request SVFR clearance mid-flight if weather conditions suddenly change. Those granted permission typically keep closer contact with air traffic control. Tags: GiannaHelicopter crashKobe Bryant