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South Florida Riptides Can Claim Lives on Spring Break

While we welcome the spring breakers who flock to enjoy the warm respite and sandy beaches Florida offers, our Palm Beach County personal injury lawyers also want to make sure all of these vacationers make it back safely.

Sadly in recent years, there has been a spate of deaths attributed to ocean swimmers who drowned in powerful riptide currents.

Riptides are powerful currents of water that flow away from the shore. They can occur at any beach – including the great lakes – but they tend to be prevalent in Florida.

The U.S. Lifesaving Association reports that more than 100 people die each year due to riptides. About 80 percent of the rescues performed by beach lifeguards are attributed to riptides. Last year, the National Weather Service extended public warnings to beach goers after numerous deaths were reported in a single month.

Among those incidents:

A 14-year-old swimming with friends in New Smyrna Beach was swept away by a current. His body was recovered the following day. That same day at another beach in Volusia county, a 66-year-old man was caught in a riptide. Rescuers were able to reach him, but he lost consciousness as the rescue was taking place. He never recovered.

The weekend before that, a 42-year-old woman was killed while trying to rescue her daughter and the girl’s two friends who had been caught in a rip tide. The girl’s father was able to save the three youngsters, but her mother had lost consciousness by the time rescuers arrived. She died at a hospital several days later.

That same day in Pensacola, a 23-year-old man from Mississippi drowned after being caught in a riptide.

The counties of Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Volusia frequently are at high risk for riptide currents.

They can sweep up even good swimmers, but non-swimmers or weak swimmers are particularly at risk. The primary reason people drown in riptides isn’t because they are dragged underwater, but rather because they are afraid, they panic and they quickly become exhausted (or they can’t swim well).

Panic is understandable, but it will do nothing to serve you in this situation. Do your best to stay calm.

Remember that riptides run horizontally and pull you away from shore. It’s best not to fight the current but to calmly tread water until you can get out of the current and/or draw attention to yourself by facing the shore, waving your hands and shouting.

Swimming at beaches with lifeguards can help to significantly reduce your risk. You can also check the weather reports to see whether the beach where you’re swimming is at risk.

If you can’t swim, don’t go too far into the water and don’t go alone. Same goes if you are intoxicated. You will have less mental stamina and physical energy to react if you are caught in a riptide.

If you are at the beach and you notice someone is in trouble, it is best not to go in yourself and try to save them. Many, many people have died this way. First, you should alert a lifeguard. If none is on duty, call 911. If you are able, throw them something that floats, which should increase their chances of survival by allowing them to stay above water until help can arrive.

Call Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Dangerous Rip Currents Claim Lives at Florida Beaches, June 18, 2012, By RANDY KREIDER, ABC News

More Blog Entries:
South Florida Boating Accidents Likely through Spring Break, March 17, 2013, Palm Beach County Personal Injury Lawyer Blog

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