Pensacola News Journal
Dad drowns trying to save son at beach
A Georgia man drowned Monday while trying to rescue his 12- year-old son struggling in rough surf on Pensacola Beach. Stephen Cox, 37, was pulled from the surf by Pensacola Beach Water Safety Supervisor Dave Greenwood, who had raced from his station by ATV to the unguarded area in front of the Holiday Inn, about a half mile away.
A witness, Paul Brooks, 42, vacationing from Buford, Ga., saw the victim and another man plunge into the 3-foot waves to try to reach children. One man made it back to shore with a child, but Brooks watched Cox and his son get pulled from shore. "I heard people hollering to call 911. It looked like he was holding the boy up out of the water, but I couldn't see him," Brooks said. "He was under water trying to keep the boy afloat."
An off-duty, Navy corpsman, Michael Garner, had stopped with his wife to look at the beach renourishment project when he heard screaming. He swam out with a life jacket and reached the boy, who was clinging to his father. Cox was face down, Garner said. "He (the boy) kept saying, `Do you have me?' " said Garner, 29, who is based at Pensacola Naval Air Station. He leaves Saturday to be with the 2nd Marine Division in Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Vacationer John Sheehan of Atlanta saw a group of eight to 10 people playing in the surf. "I heard screaming and saw two of them getting pulled out from shore," he said.
An engineer working with the beach restoration project called 911 by 10:51 a.m., dispatching Baptist LifeFlight and Escambia Fire Rescue from Pensacola Beach.
The red flag at the end of the Pensacola Beach Gulf Pier warned of dangerous surf. It pointed straight north as 20 mph winds pushed 3- to 4-foot surf ashore. The waves broke in several directions.
Greenwood said strong south winds made conditions ripe for rip currents. Brooks said he was wading out, trying to reach the pair with a rope. "The waves were flipping me every way, then this lifeguard (Greenwood) just shot past me," Brooks said.
Greenwood arrived to find Garner with the boy, with Cox just below the surface. "I got out there and they were yelling, `He just went under. He just went under.' It's the last thing you want to hear. Had I been there a minute earlier? Thirty seconds?" Greenwood said. "I saw him right under the surface and got the ring around him and shot him back in. The firefighters were there and they have all the advanced lifesaving equipment. I hoped we had a chance."
Escambia Fire Rescue firefighter and paramedic Bill Halfacre reached them with a rescue buoy and hauled the child ashore. "(Garner) probably saved the boy's life," Greenwood said. Emergency personnel were unable to revive Cox, said Joseph Jasionowski, a firefighter and emergency medical technician. Cox was flown to Gulf Breeze Hospital by Baptist LifeFlight, which landed on the beach by 11:13 a.m. The boy went to Gulf Breeze Hospital by ambulance.
The drowning is the second in two weeks. On March 27, Milton teenager Cody Kennedy was swept out to sea by an apparent rip current. Sharon Williams, who stays in a nearby condominium, was collecting shells when Monday's drowning happened. She said the scene is all too familiar where she lives in Cape Hatteras, N.C. "People think their vacation is ruined if they don't get into the water," she said.
Williams said there should be more flags in unguarded areas.
"I was telling this woman, they should not have been in the water; the flags are red. And she looked at me and said, `What flags?' " Williams said. "She had no idea what I was talking about." Lt. Bob Clark of Escambia County Sheriff's Office said warnings only go so far. "People don't read everything in their hotel rooms," Clark said. "They don't realize they have a primary responsibility to look after themselves. If you see red flags, it's a good day to get a suntan." Brooks and many other vacationers staying at the Holiday Inn said they didn't see the safety literature. "We didn't know anything about the flags," Tracey Brooks said. "Now we know."
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04-10-2003, 01:32 PM #1
Pensacola Fla--Man Drowns trying to save son from Gulf09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
"Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.
04-11-2003, 02:03 AM #2
- Join Date
- Apr 2003
- Pensacola, FL
Frankly, the last two drowning deaths have ****ed me off.
Folks, The beach is one of the most unsafe places you can be on earth. If the fish don't bite ya or sting ya, the ripcurrents on the Gulf Coast will suck you out faster than a man in a stand can realize you have a problem, pick up a line-thrower-shotgun, and fire the line to it's full extension. It's that fast.
Most people didn't grow up dealing with rough waters and ripcurrents. Most people are used to swimming in pools, lakes, streams, ponds, and other fairly innoculous bodies of water. In the Gulf, quite often you can have your children playing in knee-deep water, then a second later they can be sucked out by a wave and there is little you can do about it. There are countless cases of that occuring in the Gulf and Pensacola especially. Pensacola consistently has a high number of drowning deaths.
The sad thing is, if the father who just gave his life for his child had have simply kept his kids out of the water, he would be alive today. If he had have chosen a section of beach with lifeguards on-site instead of on roving patrol, he likely would still be alive. If he had read the giant flashing sign at the Toll Bridge Entrance to the beach, he'd likely still be alive. If he had have paid attention to the flyer attached in every hotel room & condo on the beach, he'd likely still be alive. If he had stopped to ask what the red flags meant...The sad thing is, people are going to think of this schmuck as a hero for going out and holding his son up and dying in the process. I'll remember him for being an utter fool for ignoring all the warnings and putting his child in harm's way.
Stupid people die stupid useless deaths. Stupid people don't read. Stupid people don't care. Stupid people drive drunk. And it's beyond amazing how we as a species have managed to stay alive this long when we seem to actively do the dumbest things to get ourselves killed. With any luck, someone will find the gene for idiocy and squelch it before another couple of generations pass.
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