On two separate occasions on April 3, South Walton Fire District (SWFD) lifeguards entered rough waters in the Gulf of Mexico to rescue swimmers caught in rip currents. The first incident occurred at 11:22 a.m., behind 4190 CR-30A, when the SWFD dispatch center received a call of a swimmer in distress. SWFD lifeguards responded and pulled a swimmer from a rip current. SWFD paramedics treated and transported the patient to Sacred Heart Hospital for evaluation.
SWFD fire/rescue units and lifeguards responded to the second incident at approximately 1:17 p.m. behind 246 Beachfront Trail in the Seagrove Beach area. Upon the arrival of the first fire engine, three people were spotted trapped in a rip current approximately 40-50 yards off shore. A lifeguard responding by ATV from Tower 2, located two miles west of the incident, was forced to run the last half mile due to a washout of Eastern Lake. The lifeguard entered the water immediately with two rescue buoys and quickly secured all three victims. Caught in a strong rip current with three victims, the lifeguard fought his way to shore. Firefighters began CPR and advance resuscitative procedures on one victim. Two patients were transported from the scene, one in cardiac arrest. That man, identified as Doug Eberle, 51, of Lafayette, IN. subsequently died.
It was also reported that four more swimmers had to be pulled from rip currents on Saturday April 4, near resorts in Okaloosa County.
Both of the reported south Walton incidents occurred with visible red flags posted. The South Walton Fire District is strongly encouraging residents and visitors to follow the advice of lifeguards and comply with the Red Flag Warnings. Conditions can be deceiving to the untrained observer. Paying attention to the above instructions can reduce the chances of injury or loss of life. Remember, many people drown while trying to save someone else from a rip current.
For more information, contact Sean Hughes, Deputy Chief at (850) 267-1298.