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4 People Die from Rip Currents at Panama City Beach in 48 Hours

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Florida’s Panamá City Beach Four individuals have died as a result of deadly rip currents off Panama City Beach, Florida, in less than 48 hours, making the location one of the deadliest beaches in the country this year.

Ryker Milton, an Oklahoman swimmer, age 19, drowned behind Sharky’s Beachfront Restaurant on Thursday afternoon, sparking the start of this terrible sequence of events. Authorities tried to save him, but they were unable.

On Friday night, three young guys from Alabama, Marius Richardson, 24, Jemonda Ray, 24, and Harold Denzel Hunter, 25, killed after getting sucked into rip currents. Only a few hours prior, the men had arrived and waded into the sea close to their beachfront lodging. After a distress call was sent, they were discovered and declared deceased.

These events draw attention to the ongoing risk posed by rip currents at Panama City Beach, which, according to National Weather Service data, saw more fatalities from rip currents last year than any other place in the country. At least eight fatalities from rip currents occurred at this beach alone in 2023, accounting for approximately thirty deaths in Florida from similar incidents.

Rapidly flowing waterways known as rip currents have the potential to drag swimmers out to sea and wear them out in their attempt to get out. According to the National Ocean Service, hundreds of Americans are saved from rip currents each year.

Any beach with breaking waves can experience rip currents, but Florida’s coastline is especially dangerous. At least six fatalities at Florida beaches this week bring the total number of rip current-related deaths in the United States and its territories this year to 11.

Traveler Fatales in Perilous Rip Currents

The latest drowning events at Panama City Beach, which included visitors from out of state, highlight the unseen risks that travelers may not be aware of. Hunter, Ray, and Richardson were swimming under single red flag conditions, which denote dangerous surf and strong currents, according to the Bay County Sheriff’s Office.

Another sad incident included the drowning of Brian Warter, 51, and Erica Wishard, 48, a Pennsylvania couple, who were entangled in a rip current near Stuart Beach on Hutchinson Island. Two of their six children, who were also trapped in the current but were able to escape, were on vacation with them.

Rip Currents: A Potential National Risk

The 10-year average of 74 deaths annually was surpassed by around 91 deaths at American beaches due to rip currents in 2017, according to weather service statistics. June and July saw the greatest number of occurrences, and the victims are mostly young guys between the ages of 10 and 29.

Experts emphasize that if you find yourself in a rip current, you should swim parallel to the coast to avoid the current and then return to land. Also, swimmers should always swim close to a lifeguard and monitor the conditions of the water. In Florida, swimming is prohibited when there is a double red flag, which denotes extremely dangerous water conditions.

The Continuing Struggle with Rip Currents at Panama City Beach

Director of Beach Safety for Panama City Beach Fire Rescue, Daryl Paul, said that most water rescues in the region take place in the context of a single red signal, which can nonetheless present serious risks. He restated that rip currents, not the waves themselves, provide the biggest risk.

“People aren’t being killed by waves here. The danger is not the waves. The danger is rip currents, which is why we’re flying the flags,” Paul stated.

It is nevertheless vital for beachgoers to pay attention to safety warnings and be aware of the dangers posed by rip currents as Panama City Beach struggles with these fatal circumstances.

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