VENTNOR — Mark Alston said he was shocked his younger brother lost his life Friday in the Atlantic Ocean off Victoria Avenue.
But, Mark Alston, 23, was not surprised that Jalan Xavier Alston, 18, of Brooklyn, New York, was helping others — two females, one an adult and the other a juvenile — reach the shore safely before he was caught in distress himself and lost in the ocean stirred up by Tropical Storm Fay.
“He would look out for you. ... He was kind, caring, sarcastic and very smart,” said Mark Alston, who lived with his younger brother. “He gave his life for two others. He gave his life. There’s nothing bigger than that.”
The body of Alston, who went missing Friday evening, was recovered Saturday.
Alston was spotted by two swimmers at 6:20 p.m. Saturday in the area of the Albany Avenue beach in Atlantic City and recovered by members of the Atlantic City Beach Patrol.
Alston’s body was turned over to the Southern Regional Medical Examiner’s Office, and next of kin were notified.
“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.”
At 6:53 p.m. Friday, the city police’s communications department received a 911 call reporting a swimmer in distress in the Atlantic Ocean off of Victoria Avenue, police said.
Initial city police department units arrived at the beach area and spotted Alston, who appeared in distress in the Atlantic Ocean about 50 yards off the beach on area of Oxford Avenue.
Multiple fire department and beach patrol personnel from Atlantic City, Margate, Longport and the city came to the scene and searched the waters for Alston.
The message of the missing swimmer was relayed to watchstanders at the Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay command center at about 7 p.m. Friday, the Coast Guard said.
A Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew was launched along with a 47-foot Motor Life Boat boatcrew from Coast Guard Atlantic City, the Coast Guard said.
At 8:58 p.m. Friday, the rescue operation was suspended by the responding fire and beach patrol personnel due to the darkness, but the Coast Guard remained overnight, said City Police Capt. Joe Fussner said.
Along with the city police department, Coast Guard personnel searched a combined total of 58 square-miles over air, sea, and land over a period of 13 hours, the Coast Guard said.
At 10 a.m. Saturday, the effort to recover the body resumed using personnel from the Coast Guard, as well as various beach patrols, fire and police personnel from neighboring jurisdictions continually checking the waters and shore lines of their respective municipalities.
Mark Alston said his younger brother just graduated from George Westinghouse High School in Brooklyn last month. He said his brother was “pure positivity, pure love.”
Mark Alston doesn’t recall ever having to teach his brother anything, but he knew his younger brother was copying him, which made the older brother feel like he had to be a role model.
“I always knew he was watching,” said Mark Alston, who added he has no other siblings. “I was always a little strict in my upbringing (because of Jalan).”
A Gofundme account has been set up for Alston in hopes to raise $11,000 for funeral services. The account was set up by Jayda Smith, one of the swimmers Alston rescued. As of Monday morning, there was more than $1,900 raised.
"Jalan Alston saved both me and Sierra’s lives from the rip current off the Jersey shore," Smith wrote on the crowd funding page. "He selflessly and almost instinctively jumped into the current after me, pushed me out and got me to shore. He then tried to get back to the shore with Sierra’s help, but to no prevail. He understood what was happening, grabbed her wrist and shook his head, then with a push sent her to the shore with me using his last bit of strength he had. It’s because of him that I am here, sharing his story to the world. He has such a beautiful soul and spirit, heart and mind. He gave me a second chance, and I will be using it to make his life, his legacy rememberable, starting here."