A man in his 40's was swimming behind my condo with his twin brother when they were caught in a rip current.
A friend of theirs tried to save them and succeeded in getting one of the brothers out, but the other went under and could not be found for several minutes.
We called 911, but they had already received calls about the incident and had ocean rescue, police, and EMT's en route.
A few minutes after placing our call, the 2nd brother resurfaced and a group of people pulled him in but it was clearly too late.
Ocean rescue and EMT's worked on him for approximately 20 minutes before placing him in the ambulance where he was transported to the hospital and sadly pronounced dead.
Our thoughts are with the family of the man who died.
Respect the Dangers
We always try to keep things positive here. We love Florida and think you will too.
But in light of yesterdays events, I feel it's important for me to remind all of my readers, especially those who might be making the move to Florida in the near future and who might have varying levels of ocean-going experience to use extreme caution, especially when the ocean is rough like it is in the photo above.
Here are some tips to help keep you, your family, and friends safe.
When at the beach:
Whenever possible, swim at a lifeguard-protected beach.
If you take a closer look at the photo I posted above, you'll see an unoccupied lifeguard chair.
The day before there was a lifeguard in it, and she nearly wore out her whistle blowing it to signal people in so often.
It's hard to believe they left this area unguarded today, but they blamed the empty chair on a lack of available man-power.
So bottom line, if there's no lifeguard present, you might want to think twice before going in.
Pay attention to beach warning flags and know what the colors mean.
This weekend they are flying the red and purple flags. The red flag means “High Hazard” (high surf and/or high currents). The purple flag denotes dangerous marine life are present (in this case jellyfish).
You can see what all of the flags mean here.
Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards. Lifeguards are trained to identify hazards. Ask a lifeguard about the conditions before entering the water. This is part of their job.
Learn how to swim in the surf. It's not the same as swimming in a pool or lake. Also, never swim alone.
This is tough for people who consider themselves strong swimmers to understand. Swimming in the ocean is nothing like swimming in a pool or lake. The problem, no matter how rough the ocean may be, is people tend to be overconfident and throw caution to the wind. The ocean definitely takes some getting used to, so take it easy until you get used to swimming in it.
Rip Currents Are The Primary Culprit
Rip currents are channels of fast-moving water that can pull even the most experienced swimmers from shore.
It was a rip current that caused the incident yesterday. And they can occur even when the ocean isn't rough like it was yesterday, so you have to be extremely careful.
Here are 6 things to remember if you are caught in a rip current:
1. Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
2. Never fight against the current.
3. Think of a rip current like a treadmill that cannot be turned off, which you need to step to the side of.
4. Swim out of the current PARALLEL to the shoreline. When out of the current, swim at an angle–away from the current–towards shore.
5. If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
6. If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself by waving your arm and yelling for help.
Don't Be Victim #2
The friend who was able to save the 2nd brother nearly became a victim himself. Yes, he's a hero. But it could have ended tragically for him as well.
While he was able to eventually regain his breath and refuse transport to the hospital, he was clearly winded and weakened from bringing in the one brother.
A few more seconds of struggle and effort and things could have gone another direction for him.
Here's what you should do instead:
Get help from a lifeguard.
Clearly this wasn't an option yesterday because there wasn't a lifeguard present, but…
If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 9-1-1.
Throw the rip current victim something that floats–a lifejacket, a cooler, an inflatable ball.
This may not have worked yesterday since they couldn't even see the victim until he surfaced several minutes later, but its good advice to keep in mind if circumstances are different.
Yell instructions on how to escape.
Again, probably wouldn't have worked yesterday because its hard to hear someone standing right next to you in the rough surf, but in calmer conditions, sure.
Remember, many people drown while trying to save someone else from a rip current. Don't be the second victim.
I hope it's a long time before I have to witness a tragedy like I did yesterday. And I hope even more that you will take my advice to heart and be extremely careful when enjoying our oceans here in Florida.