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  1. #1
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Post Florida Panhandle Beaches Continue to Claim Lives

    Rough waters claim 1

    Search on for second swimmer
    Michael Stewart
    @PensacolaNewsJournal.com

    Emergency crews pulled one body out of the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday and searched for another on a red-flag day at Pensacola Beach.

    One man apparently drowned, and witnesses said another man swimming alone was last seen waving his arms and crying for help before he disappeared under 5-foot swells.


    Both incidents occurred at unguarded stretches of beach.



    Pensacola Beach lifeguard Kyle Radomski, left, watches the water while Jarett Venn yells to swimmers to come in closer to shore on Saturday. Rough surf meant red flags and warnings to stay out of the gulf.

    Karena Cawthon
    @PensacolaNewsJournal.com

    At Casino Beach, lifeguards on Saturday said they rescued 15 swimmers caught in rip currents off the guarded beach. Firefighters at Navarre Beach also responded to several calls of swimmers in distress. Anthony Lee Pittman, 32, of Duluth, Ga., was pronounced dead at the scene after he was pulled from rough seas behind the Best Western motel, several hundred yards west of Emerald Isle, where he entered the water.


    The search for the possible second drowning victim was still under way at press time Saturday night. Escambia Search and Rescue officials said they would continue the search as long as weather allowed.


    Pittman was staying with four friends at Emerald Isle. He and a friend were swimming behind the condos about 12:30 p.m. when he got in trouble, witnesses said.


    Escambia County sheriff's deputies, ambulance crews and members of the Pensacola Beach Fire Department responded to the scene and launched personal watercraft in an attempt to rescue Pittman.


    "His friend said they were able to touch bottom, and all of a sudden they were pulled out and got separated from each other," Escambia County Sheriff's spokesman Greg Pearson said. "Pittman began to have problems and apparently drowned."


    The medical examiner's office was working to confirm the cause of death, Pearson said.


    Rough seas made rescue efforts difficult.


    "They were out there for about 15 minutes working on him and trying to get him to shore," said Jason Laynn, 21, of Melbourne, Australia.


    Four firefighters brought an unresponsive Pittman to shore. Attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.


    Barry Overstreet and his wife, Gayle, of Louisville, Ky., have vacationed at Pensacola Beach for 15 years.


    "I've never seen it this rough," Barry Overstreet said. "We would have tried to help, but it was just too rough. We didn't want to become statistics, too."


    Emergency crews had barely put their equipment away at 2 p.m. when they were called to an area across from Portofino towers.


    Despite efforts of a helicopter crew from the Escambia County Sheriff's Office, a victim was never spotted. But officials could not confirm that someone drowned.


    The only clues left behind were a gray tank top and a baseball cap with the letters "AF" stenciled on it.


    However, witnesses said they saw a man enter the Gulf alone, saw him waving his arms in distress and heard him call for help.


    "I could tell he was in trouble," Pensacola resident Vicky Nelson said. "Then I saw the top of his head, and that's the last I saw. It just makes me sick."


    Pensacola Beach Safety Supervisor Dave Greenwood said lifeguards rescued three swimmers at the beach Friday, even though they tried to keep swimmers close to shore.


    Carolyn Griffith, 22, of Birmingham, Ala., said she has visited Pensacola Beach several times and normally swims in the Gulf.


    "The waves are just too bad today," Griffith said. "I'm not going in."


    That was the official message as well:


    Workers passed out pamphlets at the island's toll booths, warning visitors of dangerous surf.


    A large sign at Casino Beach advised everyone to stay out of the Gulf.


    And red flags that signal "no swimming" flew at area beaches.


    Scott Cole, a responder with the Navarre Beach Fire Department, said his organization alone recorded five rescues Saturday.


    "We just urge everyone to stay out of the water," he said.


    Not counting Saturday's possible drownings, 23 people have drowned at Escambia County and Santa Rosa County beaches since 2001.


    The Florida Department of Health, with assistance from the Centers for Disease Control, plans to review Panhandle drownings to try and determine factors that caused them. The review could begin within the month.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    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.


  2. #2
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Post Deadly Holiday Weekend on Florida Beaches

    Three drown off Pensacola Beach during holiday weekend
    ASSOCIATED PRESS

    PENSACOLA BEACH - Rescuers pulled two bodies out of the roiling Gulf of Mexico here Sunday, bringing the death toll to three for the holiday weekend.

    Escambia County Sheriff's spokesman Greg Pearson said rescue workers pulled the body of Linh Duy Nguyen, 30, of Houston from the water on Sunday.

    Earlier Sunday, rescuers found the body of Michael Fitzpatrick, 46, of Memphis, Tenn., Pearson said. Fitzpatrick disappeared in the rough surf Saturday, witnesses said.

    Rescue efforts continued Sunday for an 18-year-old resident alien from Mexico, Pearson said, although the search was being hampered by rough currents.

    "It's so bad that we haven't been able to launch a boat," Pearson said. "And the current keeps churning up the water, so it's too murky to see. We're just waiting now for the body to surface."

    On Saturday, 32-year-old Anthony Lee Pittman, of Duluth, Ga., drowned several hundred yards west of where he entered the water's 5-foot swells.

    All three drownings occurred at unguarded stretches of beach, Pearson said.

    "It's unbelievable," Pearson said. "Ever since Friday, it's been red flag conditions," meaning swimming is extremely dangerous.

    "It is highly advised to stay out of the water," he said.

    At Casino Beach, lifeguards said they rescued 15 swimmers caught in rip currents off the guarded beach Saturday. Firefighters at Navarre Beach also responded to several calls of swimmers in distress.

    Barry Overstreet and his wife, Gayle, of Louisville, Ky., have vacationed at Pensacola Beach for 15 years. They witnessed attempts to rescue Pittman.

    "I've never seen it this rough," Barry Overstreet told the Pensacola News Journal. "We would have tried to help, but it was just too rough. We didn't want to become statistics, too."

    The drownings bring to 26 the number of people who have drowned off Escambia and Santa Rosa counties beaches in the far western Panhandle since 2001.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    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.

  3. #3
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Post Update

    Four drown on Florida beaches


    Associated Press

    Last update: 01 September 2003


    PENSACOLA BEACH -- Rescuers pulled two bodies out of the roiling Gulf of Mexico here Sunday, bringing the death toll in the roughed-up surf to three for the holiday weekend.

    A fourth person was missing and presumed drowned, officials said. If confirmed as an accidental drowning it would bring the death toll on Panhandle beaches to 22 this year.

    Escambia County Sheriff's spokesman Greg Pearson said rescue workers pulled the body of Linh Duy Nguyen, 30, of Houston from the water on Sunday.

    Earlier Sunday, rescuers found the body of Michael Fitzpatrick, 46, of Memphis, Tenn., Pearson said. Fitzpatrick disappeared in the rough surf Saturday, witnesses said.

    Rescue efforts continued Sunday for an 18-year-old resident alien from Mexico, Pearson said, although the search was being hampered by rough currents.

    "It's so bad that we haven't been able to launch a boat," Pearson said. "And the current keeps churning up the water, so it's too murky to see. We're just waiting now for the body to surface."

    On Saturday, 32-year-old Anthony Lee Pittman, of Duluth, Ga., drowned several hundred yards west of where he entered the water's 5-foot swells.

    All three drownings, as well as the presumed fourth drowning, occurred at unguarded stretches of beach, Pearson said.

    Conditions have been extremely dangerous for swimmers since Friday, Pearson said.

    "It is highly advised to stay out of the water," he said.

    At Casino Beach, lifeguards said they rescued 15 swimmers caught in rip currents off the guarded beach on Saturday. Firefighters at Navarre Beach also responded to several calls of swimmers in distress.

    Barry Overstreet and his wife, Gayle, of Louisville, Ky., have vacationed at Pensacola Beach for 15 years. They witnessed attempts to rescue Pittman.

    "I've never seen it this rough," Barry Overstreet told the Pensacola News Journal. "We would have tried to help, but it was just too rough. We didn't want to become statistics, too."

    Workers were handing out pamphlets at the barrier island's toll booths, warning visitors of dangerous surf. A large sign at Casino Beach advised everyone to stay out of the Gulf.

    The confirmed drownings bring to 26 the number of people who have drowned off Escambia and Santa Rosa County beaches in the far western Panhandle since 2001.

    Rough swimming conditions also marred holiday weekend plans in South Florida, where lifeguards made several rescues and at least one drowning occurred. The body of a 34-year-old Miami man was found floating near the shore in Miami Beach, after he disappeared while swimming in rough waters on Saturday.

    Francisco Mayo of Miami went for a swim Saturday afternoon and was pulled out to sea by a rip current, as relatives, friends and other swimmers watched helplessly, Miami Beach police spokesman Bobby Hernandez told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel for its Monday editions.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    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.

  4. #4
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Post More Holiday News

    Treacherous seas Area waters churned up by Tropical Storm Grace give rescue crews plenty of work over Labor Day weekend

    By WENDY VICTORA Daily News Staff Writer

    DESTIN — Early Monday afternoon, the white sands of Henderson Beach State Park were crowded with families playing in the sand and sunbathers stretched out on towels and lawn chairs.

    No one was in the Gulf of Mexico, where dirty green waves crashed sideways into each other, tugged by invisible currents.

    The water was closed, as far as park officials were concerned. Even folks walking in the wet sand were being warned about dangerous surf conditions.

    "People will ask, ‘Can I get my feet wet?’ We’ll say ‘no,’ " said Park Manager Ben Faure. "Sometimes it hurts business, but safety is the most important thing."

    To enforce it, park rangers notified visitors at the gate that they would not be allowed to enter the water, then patrolled the water line to make sure everyone resisted the urge to cool off.

    Elsewhere along the Emerald Coast, folks continued to swim, despite red flags flying at regular intervals. Churned up by the faraway Tropical Storm Grace, area waters were treacherous.

    At Gulf Islands National Seashore just west of Navarre Beach, the body of a young drowning victim was recovered Monday morning about two and a half miles from where he was last seen.

    Christoval Gomez, whose last address was in Mary Esther, had been missing since 3:30 Sunday afternoon. The 16-year-old, who was a native of Chapas, Mexico, worked for a local landscaping company, according to Gulf Islands district park ranger John Bandurski.

    Gomez was the fourth drowning victim in Northwest Florida waters this weekend, with all of the fatal incidents happening in Escambia County. His death brings the total number of drownings off of Panhandle beaches to 22 for the year.

    Though officials up and down the Emerald Coast have held meetings about what to do about the high number of drownings and near-drownings this year, little has changed yet. Red flags fly. Swimmers, especially tourists, continue to ignore them. Rescue workers are kept busy risking their own lives to save the visitors.

    Volunteers with the Navarre Beach Fire Department entered the water 25 times on Sunday to save swimmers in distress.

    In some cases, they would be in the middle of a rescue and see other swimmers entering the water.

    "They just don’t think it can happen to them," said fire Chief Jim Wirth. "The surf ’s not that high. It doesn’t look all that deadly to them. It’s just a really bad undertow."

    Henderson Beach Manager Faure said he and his staff met before Labor Day weekend and decided to be proactive about saving people this weekend.

    Though Faure said he can close any part of the park, he pointed out that his staff members were asking, not telling, people to stay out of the water.

    "It’s not something I can enforce," Faure said.

    He considered their plan to be successful since, of the 4,000 park visitors this weekend, none had drowned or gotten into trouble in the water.

    That’s because the only places in the park to get really wet were the showers on the boardwalks.

    Sonya Scalf, assistant park manager, and ranger David Cutchins cruised the beach for hours.

    "Y’all watch her," Scalf called to a pair of women walking with a little girl. "If that wave hits her, it can pull her out in just a minute without you all noticing."

    Scalf and Cutchins were on duty in April when a 60-year-old man from Connecticut drowned at the park, ignoring red flags and warnings from park rangers.

    His death was still very much on their minds as they nagged and sweet-talked people back from the water’s edge. They were especially pensive when they got to the edge of the park, out of their jurisdiction, and watched dozens of swimmers playing in the waves, some up to their waists in the rough surf.

    "We can’t do nothing," Scalf said. "It kills us. Me and David have worked a death out here before. It pulls out your heart."

    But as people wandered over the invisible line separating private property from park property, she smiled and went into action.

    "There’s scary stuff out there today," she called out. "Someone was up to their knees yesterday and got pulled out."

    Most of the visitors were good-natured about the restrictions.

    Rena Knighting and Michelle Pickeral drove 14 hours from Culpepper, Va., to spend the weekend at the beach.

    That they couldn’t actually get in the water was a minor bump in their dream weekend.

    "We just like looking at it, taking pictures," said Knighting. "Just the fact that we’re in Florida, that we got to come to the beach."

    They said park rangers did a good job of impressing the dangers of the water on them.

    "They’re very good at scaring people," Knighting said. "I’m not getting in."

    Tom Collins, a visitor from Houston, echoed similar sentiments as he lugged lawn chairs and beach bags over the boardwalk and onto the hot sand.

    "We drove eight hours from Houston for sandy beaches," he said. "I’d rather be in the water, but I respect that they’re watching out for our safety."


    • Staff Writer Wendy Victora can be reached at 863-1111, Ext. 478, or wendyv@nwfdailynews.com
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    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.

  5. #5
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Post

    Riptides cause 2 deaths in Boca
    Coconut Creek man one of victims
    BY KEVIN DEUTSCH
    Herald Writer




    CROWDED BEACHES: Beachgoers enjoy the surf in Fort Lauderdale, where lifeguards had their hands full over the Labor Day weekend keeping swimmers safe from dangerous rip currents. Similar conditions prevailed along the entire coast of South Florida. BOB EIGHMIE/HERALD STAFF


    Two men who drowned Monday at Spanish River Park in Boca Raton were caught by the type of treacherous rip currents that -- combined with hordes of holiday beachgoers -- led to what some beach rescue officials were calling one of the region's most dangerous weekends in recent memory.

    One of the two men who drowned off Boca was from Broward County -- Purav Patel, 25, of 3510 W. Hillsboro Blvd., Coconut Creek, according to Boca Raton police spokesman Jeff Kelly.

    The other drowning victim was Rakesh Patel, 33, of 5049 Sanceer Circle in Lake Worth -- no relation to Purav Patel, Kelly said.

    The ocean claimed a total of three lives in South Florida over the Labor Day weekend, including Francisco Mayo, 34, who drowned in the waters off Miami Beach on Saturday.

    In Broward County, one man nearly drowned and hundreds were helped by lifeguards on Monday. Sections of Fort Lauderdale beach that lifeguards found especially dangerous were closed to swimmers.

    A Fort Lauderdale lifeguard spotted and rescued a 38-year-old man who they said had drifted out to sea in a rip current and lost consciousness. Lifeguards and paramedics performed CPR. He was in serious condition at Broward General Hospital late Monday.

    Also Monday, 15 other swimmers needed rescuing after getting caught in rip currents in Fort Lauderdale beach.

    Rip currents are caused when strong wind forms a gap in a sandbar along the coast and ocean water rushes out through the break.

    In Fort Lauderdale, 598 people had to be told to move away from dangerous areas, a statistic known to lifeguards as ``assists.''

    ''As far as the severe ocean conditions for Saturday, Sunday and Monday, this is as busy as we've ever been,'' said Lt. Breck Ballou of the Fort Lauderdale Beach Patrol. ``We have a lot of families out here for the holiday, with parents sending their kids out into the water, not understanding how dangerous it is. It's a recipe for disaster.''

    Ballou anticipates similar water conditions Tuesday, but hopes the beach will be less crowded.

    Miami Beach lifeguards saved more than 100 people from rip currents on Labor Day, which could bring the tally over the three-day weekend to over 200, a Beach Patrol supervisor said Monday.

    ''It's been a crazy weekend,'' said Operations Supervisor Hank Oppenborn. ``It's probably a record number of rescues.''

    Oppenborn said the rip current was unusually strong for this time of the year.

    The men who drowned off Boca Raton were attending a Labor Day picnic on the beach, Kelly said.

    The two were in a group of four who had gone swimming in the ocean. Rakesh Patel, Purav Patel and another, unidentified man who survived the ordeal were trapped by ocean currents, Kelly said.

    The fourth man in the group, Bobby Patel, Rakesh Patel's brother-in-law, noticed the men's distress and helped pull them to shore.

    Rescuers performed CPR, but by the time paramedics arrived it was too late, Kelly said.

    Signs posted along Boca Raton's beach Monday warned of rip currents.

    Capt. Vinny Canosa of Hollywood Fire-Rescue Beach Safety said that while there were some rip currents on Hollywood beach Monday, ``it was nothing at all like the last two days.''

    Despite yellow warning flags and afternoon rains, most Labor Day swimmers were not deterred from going for a dip.

    ''I got stuck in one of the currents, but I've been coming to this beach for 20 years, so I know how to get back to shore,'' said Mel Antolito, 63, who visits Fort Lauderdale beach about twice a week. ``You can't get scared. You've got to know how to ride out the rough water, but most of the people out here don't understand that.''

    Antolito didn't need rescuing, but lifeguards were extra vigilant in looking for those who did.

    On Sunday, Janna Feiginoe got caught in a rip current and nearly drowned before Fort Lauderdale lifeguard Bill Boyle rescued her.

    ''I'm a pretty good swimmer, but I didn't realize the wave was so strong,'' said Feiginoe, 40, of New York. ``I was scared. I tried to fight it and I got tired. Now, I realize you can't fight Mother Nature.''

    Piodrek Zodorsai, a 33-year old lifeguard, did not take his eyes off the swimmers near his tower, knowing he might be needed at any moment.

    ''I made three rescues yesterday, and things are still looking bad today,'' said Zodorsai. ``We still have a strong east wind, and people think those waves are fun. That's why we're here.''

    South Florida wasn't the only part of the state where dangerous surf conditions claimed lives.

    In the Panhandle on Monday rescuers continued to search for the body of a man who vanished in the surf at Gulf Island National Seashore. The man, an 18-year-old resident alien from Mexico, was one of three people believed to have drowned Sunday off Panhandle beaches. A fourth drowned Saturday.

    Rip currents weren't the only thing keeping lifeguards busy Monday.

    On Hollywood beach, lifeguards rescued a man who tried to commit suicide by swimming out to sea. He refused to turn back despite whistle alerts and shouting by lifeguards, Canosa said.

    Four lifeguards went after the man -- two on water scooters and two on paddleboards, and they managed to bring him to shore, Canosa said.

    Herald Staff Writer David Ovalle contributed to this report.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    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.

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