Commissioners want to assist SWFD lifeguards after numerous drownings in Walton County


SOUTH WALTON, Fla. (WMBB) — County commissioners said four drowning deaths this year is too many, and they want to try and change that.

They have an over 26-mile stretch of county-owned beaches with 11 county-funded lifeguard towers. But because of private beaches, South Walton Fire District lifeguards are not able to cover the whole area.

SWFD Beach Safety Director David Vaughan said they have tried to hire more staff, but finding more than just seasonal lifeguards is not easy. He said his goal is to get more boots on the ground to avoid more drownings.

“In a possible drowning event, begins, ends, and resolves within six to 10 minutes,” Vaughan said. “Sometimes when we are half a mile away, if we are on point getting that call within a minute deploying within the next 30 seconds to a minute, getting full speed down there. By the time we are already arriving on scene, we are already 4 to 5 minutes into the event.”

Walton County commissioners told the SWFD Tuesday they want to get more staffing on the beaches, not just during the busy season.

“The public doesn’t understand why we are not teleporting there immediately when something happens a half-mile, and you got people angry that citizens are doing the natural, good Samaritan thing, going out and trying to do a human chain to be helpful because they saw viral videos of it and that just makes the mass casualty incident worse,” he said.

At the next county commission, officials said there will be more discussion on what should be done next.

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