Especially during Hurricane Season, Florida Panhandle beaches as well as much of the Gulf coast can experience a high risk of rip currents, which can lead to drownings. One county has launched a mini-documentary to warn beachgoers about those dangers as part of a water safety project.
Since 2006, Walton County has had lifeguard stations along its beaches. That was not so in 2003, when Madeline Brindley’s father, Ken, drowned at Grayton Beach—during the Arkansas family’s vacation.
At the time, Ken was trying to save another father and son who were stuck in a rip current.
“My dad and his two friends were near the water, and that’s when he saw someone struggling,” said Madeline Brindley. “My dad ran into help the guy, but then he ended up being pulled under by the rip current himself.”
Madeline spoke as part of a seven-minute documentary the Walton County Sheriff’s launched last month on the dangers of rip currents. In it, she’s joined by the county’s sheriff Mike Adkinson.
“The singly worst thing that I have to do is to knock on a door or to make that phone to that family out-of-state and tell them their loved ones are not coming home,” said Adkinson. “We don’t want anymore deaths, and what I don’t want is for people to have to be brave like Madeline Brindley.”
Adkinson says his hope is to reduce the number of water rescues on local beaches that are preventable.
As in surrounding county areas, he adds law enforcement have been responding to more and more water rescue calls at beaches where people are ignoring the flag system. For example, posted double red flags means it’s not safe to swim in the water, due to strong currents and surf conditions. Yet last month, Bay County Sheriff’s deputies responded to 37 calls in one day of beachgoers who ignored posted double red flags
Still, South Walton Fire District Chief Rick Talbert says while it helps that there are lifeguard stations at area beaches, beachgoers must do their part as well.
“While there have been 30 deaths the past six years arising from incidents on Walton County beaches, none of those incidents occurred near staff fire district lifeguard stations and not all of them were due to rip currents,” said Talbert. “Remain vigilant about water conditions and adhere to the flag system. Help us protect your family. Be informed. See more at SWFD.org.”
According to the sheriff’s office, the mini-documentary was made using the Sheriff’s portion of the county tourist development bed tax. It can be viewed on the sheriff’s office Facebook page.
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