Around 11:00 a.m. this morning I took P-pup out for a walk and thought I heard someone yelling. I listened for a minute and realized it sounded like they were yelling for help.
I walked out toward our dock and continued to hear it, but could see nothing unusual in the area. Then I noticed the wind was coming out of the south -- the calls had to be coming from the beach.
I ran back inside, grabbed my car keys, and headed toward the beach as quickly as possible. A string of cars heading east toward the newly re-opened road between Pensacola Beach and Navarre Beach held me up and I began to hear sirens. As I waited I saw something was indeed happening as a firetruck and several beach patrol trucks rolled into the parking node across from my neighborhood. Below is what I saw:
A young man had gotten caught up in a riptide. Red flags were flying and warnings of rough surf had been issued since yesterday. Everyone was being cautioned to either stay out of the water or swim in areas where there were lifeguards. This young man (I've blurred his face in all the photos) probably thought he was a very good swimmer and would have no problem. It almost cost him his life.
Exhausted, he collapsed as they brought him to shore. In the distance you can see someone from the beach rescue team heading out on a waverunner to bring in another young man who went out to help him.
A news team from WEAR-TV happened to be at Casino Beach doing a story on the concerns of spring break and the high surf - amazing timing - and rushed to the location when the call came in. You should be able to see the story on tonight's news and hopefully it will be a reminder to beachgoers how quickly the situation can turn dangerous when a riptide occurs.
The rescue team tends to the young man on the left, while the waverunner approaches the beach with a surfer who probably went out to help him. (You would have to double-check with Bob West, Pensacola Beach Safety Director, but I believe I am correct in stating that no surfer has ever drown on Pensacola. Don't forget they have a flotation device!)
The young man was given oxygen and will mostly likely be taken to the Gulf Breeze Hospital for observation. Though young and healthy, secondary drowning is a concern after a near-drowning experience.
Before leaving, I walked over and thanked this member of the rescue team. And our thanks to all members of the Pensacola Beach Fire & Rescue Team who put their lives on the line for us on a daily basis.
Please, take heed of red and yellow flags. If you want to swim, go to areas with lifeguards and make sure your Pensacola Beach vacation is a safe one.
[UPDATE: For a link to the WEAR-TV report, click HERE.]