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Drowning deaths at Panama City Beach: 3 tourists from Alabama caught in rip current

Drowning deaths at Panama City Beach: 3 tourists from Alabama caught in rip current

Tyler Orsburn/Panama City News-Herald/USA Today Network

The access to Public Beach No. 12 in Panama City Beach, Florida, where young Alabama men drowned, is pictured June 22, 2024.



CNN

A nighttime beach swim took a tragic turn for three men visiting Northwest Florida from Alabama over the weekend after they were caught in a rip current and later died, according to the state’s office. Bay County Sheriff.

The men, all in their 20s, were swimming off Panama City Beach on Friday when the sheriff’s office received a report of three swimmers in distress shortly after 8 p.m., according to the Bay County Sheriff’s Office. Tommy Ford.

At least one of the swimmers was taken from the Gulf of Mexico after the first call, the sheriff’s office said on Facebook. This man received medical treatment while the search continued for the two other swimmers in the Watercress Condominiums area, near where the victims were believed to be in distress.

Sheriff’s Office Air Unit, Bay County Emergency Services, United States The Coast Guard and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission worked to locate the swimmers, according to the sheriff’s office. The sheriff said other visitors to the area also helped search for the men.

The three swimmers were eventually found and transported to hospitals, where they were pronounced dead.

“It is with deep sadness that we announce that the three young men who entered the water…and were in distress have passed away,” Ford said in a statement on Facebook.

On Saturday, the sheriff called the deaths “such a tragedy” and asked for prayers for the victims’ loved ones.

“Many of our rescue swimmers from the Sheriff’s Office, Bay County Emergency Services and Panama City Beach went into the dark and dangerous waters for over two hours attempting to rescue and search for the young men,” Ford said in a statement.

A couple drowned in a rip current in Florida while on vacation with their children, authorities say.

The sheriff identified the Birmingham, Alabama, victims as Harold Denzel Hunter, 25, and Jemonda Ray and Marius Richardson, both 24.

They had arrived Friday evening with a group of friends in Panama City Beach, a popular tourist destination that receives about 4.5 million visitors each year.

“They registered their rental and rushed to get in the water,” Ford said.

Rip currents contributed to the deaths of two other people visiting Florida beaches last week. A Pennsylvania couple visiting the beach off Hutchinson Island in South Florida drowned after a rip current swept them away on Thursday, according to the Martin County Sheriff’s Office.

The victims — Brian Warter, 51, and Erica Wishard, 48 — were part of a family of eight vacationing in Florida when the fatal crash occurred, the sheriff’s office told the California affiliate CNN, WPEC.

Rip currents are strong, narrow currents of water, usually less than 80 feet wide, that flow toward the ocean away from the shore at an acute or perpendicular angle, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric and Administration.

Powerful currents can move faster than an Olympic swimmer at speeds of up to 8 feet per second, according to NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

The force and movement of rip currents pose threats to the safety of swimmers who can quickly be caught in them and swept away. They kill about 100 people each year in the United States, according to the Ocean Service.

Swimming parallel to the shore rather than toward it when you encounter a rip current is the best way to escape it, experts say.

Swimmers faced with a rip current should avoid panicking, keep breathing, try to keep their heads above water, and avoid becoming exhausted trying to fight the force of the rip current.

CNN’s Mallika Kallingal contributed to this report.