near drownings
steve

Utica, MS

#1 Jun 17, 2013
On a recent trip to fort walton my wife, my 11 year old son almost drown due to a rip current. We thought it was safe to go in to the water even though there was huge waves because the life guard stand was showing a yellow flag. We were playing close to shore but the big waves were knocking us over as we played with our kids on their boogie boards. My daughter tired out quickly and I brought her to shore and just that fast my wife and son were sucked out without even realizing what was going on until it was to late. I ran into the water tried swimming to them then started screaming for the life guard that was sitting on his four wheeler. I screamed and waved my hands for at least 30 seconds as I kept looking back at my wife and son. The were able to maintain their grip on the boogie board so at least that had something to float on but I could see the fear in then faces. While still screaming and waving my arms a huge wave hit my family which caused them to loose the boogie board and both of them to go under. I started swimming towards them as hard as I could as I was so afraid of losing my family it was unbearable to sit by waiting for help that didn't seem to be coming. I could hear my son screaming and crying as well as my wife screaming for help over and over again. Luckily an someone on another boogie board heard their cries and was able to save my son from drowning. At that point my wife was spent and as she knew her son was safe she couldn't go on anymore. Someone else got too her whom I thought was I life guard just before I did but it was a younger guy who was trying to drag her by her arm to shore. I grabbed the other arm and we both tried pulling her to shore.
A life guard showed up at this point and gave his bouy to the man on the boogie board who had my son and started to tow them in. I started screaming at the life guard that my wife was in worse shape and needed more help at this point, her lips were turning blue and she was swallowing lots of salt water.
Needless to say we spent about 6-7 hours at the Fort Walton beach Medical Center. We were asked several times by a few nurses and others why would you swim on a double red flag day. I was very adamant when I told them that the very first thing I checked when I walked on that beach was the flag color.
Why was the flag just Yellow?
Its funny that after our incident the yellow was taken down and double red was put up.
Does anyone know who supply's or who decides where life guards are stationed along the beaches?
It is sad to say that the day before this near drowning we were at Big Kahuna's water park and we were so impressed at how the life guards constantly scanned every area they were assigned to.
I'm not hating on life guards, maybe it is just volunteers, but for the guy to sit on his four wheeler and not see or hear me screaming and waving my hands its sad.
If this is the best the Florida can do for my family's safety I'm done with Florida as a vacation spot.
I love going to Florida but this has changed my outlook on life.
Brandy

United States

#2 Jun 18, 2013
Steve, I hate to hear that this happened to your family. We are from Little Rock, AR and recently came back from a week in Seaside/Blue Mountain Beach area. We were witnessed to 2 drownings and after one of the drownings, the flag color changed from one red flag to a double red flag. I do not have the answer to your question but can understand your frustration. I hope that your wife and son are OK. How are they doing? We will keep you all in our prayers.
concerned

Dallas, TX

#3 Jun 24, 2013
Scary situation. I'm going there in a couple of days with my family. We've never been around big water like that and the current that I hear about concerns me. I think kids will just be playing in sand and save the swimming for the hotel. We're from Arkansas too.
Mandy

Henderson, KY

#4 Jul 7, 2013
I just got back from Fort Walton Beach on Friday. My first trip to the gulf, and my first experience with a rip tide. They had a yellow flag up, this was last Tuesday, so we went out on our boogie boards. We didn't realize how far we had drifted to the left of where we started, and a life guard came out and said to ease over towards the right as we went to the beach because there was a rip tide. Then he disappeared, so of course I wasn't too concerned, until I began struggling to get back to the beach. No matter how hard I swam, walked, kicked I was going no where. My teenagers made it safely to the beach, but I was further out. Finally, a man (not sure if he was a lifeguard my daughter says he wasn't) in a kayak noticed me and came to my rescue. I have always considered myself a strong swimmer, but that was entirely too scary for me. I thank God for that nice man and my boogie board that kept me from going under those strong waves. Right after my incident the flag was changed to red. I loved Florida, but next time I will be far more cautious in the water.
Quint

Panama City, FL

#5 Jul 13, 2013
Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, Chief. We was comin' back from the island of Tinian to Leyte... just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in 12 minutes. Didn't see the first shark for about a half an hour. Tiger. 13-footer. You know how you know that when you're in the water, Chief? You tell by looking from the dorsal to the tail fin. What we didn't know, was our bomb mission had been so secret, no distress signal had been sent. They didn't even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, Chief, sharks come cruisin', so we formed ourselves into tight groups. You know, it was kinda like old squares in the battle like you see in the calendar named "The Battle of Waterloo" and the idea was: shark comes to the nearest man, that man he starts poundin' and hollerin' and screamin' and sometimes the shark will go away... but sometimes he wouldn't go away. Sometimes that shark he looks right into ya. Right into your eyes. And, you know, the thing about a shark... he's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes. When he comes at ya, doesn't seem to be living... until he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then... ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin'. The ocean turns red, and despite all the poundin' and the hollerin', they all come in and they... rip you to pieces. You know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men. I don't know how many sharks, maybe a thousand. I know how many men, they averaged six an hour. On Thursday morning, Chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player. Boatswain's mate. I thought he was asleep. I reached over to wake him up. He bobbed up, down in the water just like a kinda top. Upended. Well, he'd been bitten in half below the waist. Noon, the fifth day, Mr. Hooper, a Lockheed Ventura saw us. He swung in low and he saw us... he was a young pilot, a lot younger than Mr. Hooper. Anyway, he saw us and he come in low and three hours later a big fat PBY comes down and starts to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened... waitin' for my turn. I'll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred men went in the water; 316 men come out and the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb.
concerned

United States

#6 Jul 15, 2013
We are back from the trip and the water was quite the sight to see. We played in it, but to actually swim was too hard because of the waves, and it really is salty LOL. We tried at the condo in Fort Walton Beach, then we visited a state park in Destin. As you enter Destin from FWB, that beach to the right, right before the bridge, that water looked calm but we didn't get to try swimming here. We had fun though and it was good to get away and experience something like that.
Lauren

Niceville, FL

#7 Jul 22, 2013
As a trained beach lifeguard and a water park lifeguard, the most heartbreaking situations are drownings. Unfortunately here in Destin, instead of seeing billboards informing tourists about beach flags or rip currents, there seem to be nothing but plastic surgeons and restaurants.
I stood on the beach yesterday (off duty) and watched someone be taken off in an ambulance from Henderson State Park. I still don't know what exactly happened, but they closed the water (after there was already a red flag) and began pulling people out of the water. However, people continued to go right back in. Even children! They put those flags up for a reason. You are asking for an accident if you make the choice to go in that water when there is a red flag, double red flag, or the water is closed. Parents, children, and even adults, when they put those flags up, do NOT go in the water. I know it's beautiful, I've lived here 20 years. But it is not worth losing a loved one or your own life. Wait for the conditions to change (as they so frequently do) and then go for a swim.
Don't be the next victim of a drowning incident. We as lifeguards have an extremely difficult job. Considering the amount of people on a beach at any given time, it's hard to see and watch every individual in the water. Believe me, I know! Even in water parks, accidents can happen without proper knowledge of the water and/or your swimming abilities. There is a vast difference in knowing how to swim, and knowing how to swim well.
I hope that locals and tourists will be more cautious in their approach to the beaches here, as well as the water parks. No one wants an accident. Especially lifeguards, first responders, and locals. We remember all of them.
Have a safe and wonderful summer and respect the beach and water.
Lauren

United States

#8 Jul 22, 2013
Steve, I am so sorry to hear about your family.
I worked as a lifeguard at Big Kahunas a few years ago and I'm happy to hear you were impressed. The lifeguards there go through very extensive training that is tested weekly. They are Very good at what they do!
However, beach lifeguards are in a totally different environment. Those waves are loud and the area is far larger. But that certainly doesn't justify their failure to save your family and I can't express my apologies enough. I hope that you will continue to visit our beaches here and that the officials will be more careful in their flag placements. Check the conditions in the internet or your phone before you go out, just in case. My blessings and prayers to your family Steve.
Suzanne

Sunnyvale, CA

#9 Jul 23, 2013
Lauren wrote:
As a trained beach lifeguard and a water park lifeguard, the most heartbreaking situations are drownings. Unfortunately here in Destin, instead of seeing billboards informing tourists about beach flags or rip currents, there seem to be nothing but plastic surgeons and restaurants.
I stood on the beach yesterday (off duty) and watched someone be taken off in an ambulance from Henderson State Park. I still don't know what exactly happened, but they closed the water (after there was already a red flag) and began pulling people out of the water. However, people continued to go right back in. Even children! They put those flags up for a reason. You are asking for an accident if you make the choice to go in that water when there is a red flag, double red flag, or the water is closed. Parents, children, and even adults, when they put those flags up, do NOT go in the water. I know it's beautiful, I've lived here 20 years. But it is not worth losing a loved one or your own life. Wait for the conditions to change (as they so frequently do) and then go for a swim.
Don't be the next victim of a drowning incident. We as lifeguards have an extremely difficult job. Considering the amount of people on a beach at any given time, it's hard to see and watch every individual in the water. Believe me, I know! Even in water parks, accidents can happen without proper knowledge of the water and/or your swimming abilities. There is a vast difference in knowing how to swim, and knowing how to swim well.
I hope that locals and tourists will be more cautious in their approach to the beaches here, as well as the water parks. No one wants an accident. Especially lifeguards, first responders, and locals. We remember all of them.
Have a safe and wonderful summer and respect the beach and water.
Lauren, Thank-you for your dedicated work. My friend's brother just drowned this past week-end at Navarre, and he was a top athlete. I am a strong, trained swimmer, but I REALLY didn't know the flag "color codes" until after this tragic event, where I educated myself. I thought a red flag was meant as a warning to stay out unless you are a strong swimmer. I now know that I was ignorant, but I'd never been taught this.(I live in California, not Florida.) I don't live near the ocean, and have never seen any other flag colors to know there is a whole system.
Oceans are unpredictable, funding is cut back for crucial work like lifeguarding, there is the balance between wanting to attract tourists and not scare them too much, and sometimes these things happen no matter what we do.
Sending love & Blessings to the friends, family and community of the 3 who lost their lives this week-end.
Local

Panama City Beach, FL

#10 Jul 27, 2013
The beach flag system in Walton County is flawed. To be safe always add a flag safety designation of one to whatever is flying (if one red flag is shown consider actual conditions as a double red flag). The Bay county flag system is much more accurate.

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