Red Flag: Rough Seas

By: Alana Adams
By: Alana Adams

The traditional start of the summer tourism season has been dangerous. Rescue workers pulled nearly two dozen people out of the Gulf Monday, as riptides assaulted the coastline.

It began Monday morning and continued all day. Five people were swept out by rip currents behind 'Venture Out' on Thomas Drive around 10:00 in the morning. An eleven-year-old boy was swept out and his father along with three bystanders went in after the boy, all getting caught in the riptide. A surfer and a lifeguard with a beach service rescued them.

Tom Derzypolski is on vacation from Tallahassee and was just getting out of the water when he heard the screams for help.

"Some people were screaming down the beach that there were some people in trouble, just being that I had a board, thought I might be able to help out. So, I paddle out there and got a couple of them to cling on to the board. Then beach services showed up with a life guard and they did a real good job doing their deal."

The lifeguard was actually injured during the rescue when he was hit on the head. Paramedics took him to the hospital as a precaution, but as the day wore on and the heat got worse, so did the swimming situation.

A 26-year-old man from China drowned this afternoon behind the Edgewater Beach Resort at about 2:30. He was swimming with a raft, but he was sucked under the water and let go of the raft. Rescue teams performed CPR and then transported him to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Moments later, four people were pulled under near the county pier. Then another group got in trouble near the Summit Condominiums on Thomas Drive. It continued for more than an hour.

In most cases, swimmers were ignoring red flags posted along the beach and the repeated verbal warnings by law enforcement patrolling the beach to stay out of the water.

Lt. Mike Purvis with the Bay County Sheriff's Office says days like this only become more frustrating when the same people continue to get in the water.

"At the very most, up to your knees, but I wouldn't even advise that because the current is so strong today, it's even pulling just up to your knees."

Apparently, the problems were somewhat limited to Bay County. Okaloosa and Walton counties did not report any surf problems today.


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