As you walk east along Oakwood on the Sound beach at the end of Hulse Landing Road in Wading River, a fence stretching more than 100 yards contains signs warning beachgoers of the dangerous collapsing cliffs above.
But just beyond the fencing are several bluffs that, although steep, can be climbed by any able-bodied person seeking a thrill.
On Sunday evening, during a private Memorial Day weekend party on the beach, a climb up one of those bluffs turned tragic.
Matthew Grimaldi, 18, of Lake Grove had climbed a bluff along with several friends and was returning to the beach when he lost his footing shortly before 7 p.m., Riverhead Town police said. He landed on a felled tree resting along the edge of the beach and was impaled by one of the trees sharp limbs pointing up toward the bluff.
Matthew suffered a severe puncture wound to the chest and was pronounced dead upon arrival at Peconic Bay Medical Center, police said. He was treated at the scene and transported to the hospital by Wading River Fire Department personnel.
A neighbor of the beach said erosion caused in 2012 by Superstorm Sandy has made the bluffs more attractive to teens at the beach.
“You’ll always see deer up there, but since Sandy we’re seeing more and more kids climbing,” said the neighbor, who declined to give his full name.
As folks walked their dogs and fishermen cast their poles on the beach Monday morning, a climber could be spotted scaling the bluff immediately to the east of Sunday’s tragic fall.
“It’s very dangerous,” the neighbor said. “This is just horrible, very sad.”
Matthew was a senior at Ward Melville High School set to graduate alongside his twin brother next month.
“Matt was a really good kid, polite, funny and smart,” said Vincent Cereola an English teacher at Ward Melville High School, who taught him junior year. “He was always a positive presence in my class.”
Riverhead Police said an investigation into the death was continuing and asked anyone with information to call them at 631-727-4500, ext. 332.
Editor’s Note: At the request of many of our readers, several photos originally posted on the jump page of this post have been removed.