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Two die in hurricane-whipped surf

  • Story Highlights
  • Girl who died after being swept into Atlantic Ocean off Maine identified
  • Bill, a Category 1 hurricane Sunday, downgraded to unnamed storm Monday
  • Two other people rescued after being swept into ocean
  • Man died Saturday in surf off Florida
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(CNN) -- Authorities have identified both people who died after being swept away by fierce waves churned up by Hurricane Bill on the East Coast.

Hurricane Bill generated high seas and closed beaches along the eastern seaboard over the weekend.

Tourists watch waves crash ashore at Acadia National Park in Maine on Sunday.

Clio Axlerod, 7, of New York, died after a wave knocked her and six other people into the Atlantic at Maine's Acadia National Park on Sunday, Park Chief Stuart West said.

Of the other six who were swept from that park into the ocean, four made it back to shore on their own. Two -- Axlerod's father, Peter Axlerod, 55, and Simone Pelletier, 12, of Belfast, Maine -- were rescued by the Coast Guard, he said.

The victims were among several thousand people who were at the park late Sunday morning to watch the high waves that Bill -- then a Category 1 hurricane -- was producing. iReport.com: See photos shot before tragic wave incident

The people knocked into the water were on a rock cliff about 20 feet above the sea, West said. A wave struck at about 11: 50 a.m., pushing water onto the ankles of some of the people standing on "top of what we think would be a safe area," West said.

People started to turn back, but then they were hit by a larger wave, which sent the seven into the sea, West said.

Some people were taken to a hospital with broken bones or other injuries, according to Sheridan Steele, the park's superintendent.

A witness, Mary Ellen Martel of Maine, said that before the seven were swept into the ocean, people were clapping and laughing when the wind would bring the spray over.

"It was a very festive atmosphere," Martel said in a telephone interview. "It was a warm, sunny day and everyone was just enjoying the show that Mother Nature was offering, but not everybody knows to stay away from the edge -- or way, away from the edge."

Martel, who had come to the park with her husband, said she feels "pretty certain" she had been on the same ledge as some of the victims who were swept to shore.

Martel had stood far enough back that the first wave did not affect her much, but when she saw the second coming, she turned her back to protect a camera she had. She was doused from her shoulders down, and she went for the road that led away from the area, she said.

"When I looked [back], everybody was scrambling to get off the ledge," she said.

Angel Rosa, 54, had come with family to Bethune Beach, one of Volusia County's 40 miles of beaches, Petersohn said. Although lifeguards had warned people not to go in the water because the offshore wind built waves to between 10 and 13 feet tall, Petersohn said, he suspects that's exactly why Rosa was in the water.

"I have a feeling he probably came over to body surf these huge waves," he said. He added that such waves come along only every few years.

Rosa entered the water Saturday afternoon with a group, but was separated from them, Petersohn said. His fellow swimmers reported Rosa missing, he said, and as rescue teams were mobilizing, beach patrol received an emergency call that a man had been dragged to shore a half-mile away.

Petersohn said Rosa might have suffered some kind of trauma that contributed to his drowning. Emergency personnel treated three spinal injuries during the weekend, Petersohn said, as the tough waves slammed swimmers into the bottom.

An autopsy report on Rosa is expected in coming days.

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"It's very unfortunate that this happened, and everyone feels terrible about it, but it's not something I'm surprised about," Petersohn said. "As big as the surf was, as treacherous as it was, it doesn't surprise me."

Bill was downgraded to a tropical storm and then to an unnamed storm Monday as it headed into the northern Atlantic. The storm was expected to be in the British Isles by midweek, according to a forecast map from the National Hurricane Center.

CNN's Khadijah Rentas contributed to this report.

All About Hurricanes and CyclonesNational Weather Service

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