NORTH WILDWOOD — A state Superior Court judge has rejected a lawsuit seeking to close a Jersey Shore beach where three people died in recent years.

The family of Pennsylvania resident Bradley Smith was rejected in its suit to close Hereford Inlet in North Wildwood. Smith drowned in July 2012 when, after he walked in ankle-deep water with several adults and children, the group came upon an underwater cliff with a sudden dropoff.

The judge dismissed the case "for failure to exhaust administrative remedies prior to seeking judicial relief."

Smith's family filed a wrongful death suit against North Wildwood in 2014 claiming poor signage about the lack of lifeguards north of an area where the water forms a vortex. The plantiffs agreed to separate the issue of closing the beach into a separate suit.

“The city will be forever sympathetic toward the Smith Family for the tragic loss of Bradley Smith,” Mayor Patrick Rosenello said. “And, while the city is satisfied with the court’s decision, I advise all beachgoers to pay attention to warning signage, and if a lifeguard is not on duty, DO NOT go in the water."

The Beach Patrol is on duty between 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

When a lifeguard is on duty, Rosenello said, beachgoers should only go into the water in front of the lifeguards. People who swim where there are no lifeguards, Rosenello said earlier, are taking their lives into their own hands.

North Wildwood also started posted flags and signs this season that read "Unprotected beach. Sudden drop-off" and "Deadly currents. Real risk of drowning."

In 2009, 27-year-old Jamila Watkins and 15-year-old Shayne Hart also died at the beach, when they were swept into its waters after sand collapsed beneath them. Their families had also pressed for the beach to be closed.

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