3 Swimmers Dead in Florida After Getting Caught in Rip Current

3 Swimmers Dead in Florida After Getting Caught in Rip Current

(LibertyInsider.org) – Despite the cinema’s love affair with frightening sea creatures, sharks and jellyfish aren’t the only dangers beach-goers can face. According to Sea Grant California, lifeguards save around 60,000 people from drowning on a yearly basis, and about 80% of the rescues are the result of rip currents. On Friday, June 21, three young men visiting Panama City, Florida, died after a rip current caught them when they entered the water.

Jemonda Ray, 24, Marius Richardson, 24, and Harold Denzel Hunter, 25, decided to go for a sunset swim at Panama City Beach around 8 p.m., shortly after settling into their vacation rental. The three had traveled from Birmingham, Alabama.

A rip current caught the men in about waist-deep water, and they quickly disappeared from view even though other beach-goers raised alarms with lifeguards. The Coast Guard and others initiated searches, but rescuers could only recover the bodies, widely separated by the currents. Local hospitals officially pronounced all three dead.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) explained that rip currents occur in any body of water where waves break. They are faster, narrower channels of water moving away from shore that can quickly sweep swimmers toward open water.

The experts point out that it’s important not to fight against the current because it’s generally stronger than the best swimmers. Instead, they coach people to swim at a 90-degree angle to the current or parallel to the shore until they are out of the rip current. Then, swim at an angle to the shore, away from the rip current.

Earlier in the week, lifeguards had flown a single red flag warning. A single red flag indicates rough conditions, including rip currents, and lifeguards discourage swimmers from entering the water when a red flag is flying.

However, after the tragedy, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office announced a double red flag warning on Sunday, thus closing the beach to swimmers. A double red flag on a single pole indicates a beach closure. Most beaches with lifeguards include signs explaining what different flags mean. Even when lifeguards aren’t present, many beaches display flags to let swimmers know what conditions they might face.

Rip currents kill more than 100 people in the US each year and account for tens of thousands of lifeguard rescues in the US annually. By contrast, the US typically only sees 1 to 2 shark-attack fatalities yearly.

Copyright 2024, LibertyInsider.org