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Authorities warn of riptide dangers after recent tragedies

In just the past few days, dangerous rip currents have taken the lives of at least eight swimmers.
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Posted at 4:17 PM, Jun 23, 2024

As summer heats up and more people head for cool ocean waters, authorities are sounding new warnings about how deadly the waves can be.

In just the past few days, dangerous rip currents have taken the lives of at least eight swimmers, including men from Birmingham Alabama who drowned Friday at a Bay County Florida beach.

Harold Denzel Hunter, 25, Jemonda Ray, 24, and Marius Richardson, 24 were friends from Birmingham Alabama, the Bay County Sheriff's Office said in a Facebook post.

"The three men were caught in a rip current shortly after entering the water," the statement said.

On Thursday, Brian Warter, 51, and Erica Wishard, 48 drowned while visiting a Florida beach about an hour north of West Palm Beach, according to the Martin County Sheriff's office.

The couple, from Pennsylvania, were visiting the area with their six children, authorities said.

"They were in panic mode and unfortunately went under," said Martin County Sheriffs Office Chief Deputy John Budeniek. "It took them some period of time before they were able to locate the male who was under the water for some time."

Rip currents are powerful, narrow channels of water that can quickly carry swimmers offshore, away from the beach and into deeper water.

Last year, 91 people in the United States died in rip currents, according to the National Weather Service.

Water safety experts say staying calm can help you survive a rip current. Instead of trying to fight the current, experts say first try calling or waving for help. Swim parallel to the shore to escape, following breaking waves at an angle to get back on solid ground.

Authorities stress that swimming near a lifeguard and paying attention to warning signs and flags is also important anytime you go in the water.

Related story: 3 Alabama men die after swimming at Florida beach