After first responder drowns saving distressed swimmers, officials call for change

Franklin County

ST. GEORGE ISLAND, Fla. (WMBB) — The St. George Island Volunteer Fire Department first received the rescue call of a family in distress in the water around 2 pm on Tuesday.

Fire Chief Kevin Delahanty says around eight first responders tried to save the family in the water, from the rough surf.

“I took the father to the ambulance off the beach, when I got back everyone was onshore, but one of my firefighters got succumbed to the water and drowned,” said Delahanty.

First Responder Brian Smith lost his life in the water while saving the family.

The rescue took place while double red flags were flying and no one was supposed to be in the water. Now law enforcement officials and first responders are calling for change.

“We have to get this straightened out, we have to get a flag system out here on this beach, otherwise if we’re going to keep losing people, it’s unacceptable, it’s almost criminal,” said Delahanty.

Saying if there had been a flag system in place on the white sands, things might have been different.

“I’m not saying it could’ve saved everybody, I’m just saying it would help. Because you see double red flags, this would help. If they fine people for going in the water, it would help,” said Delahanty.

56-year-old Brian Smith leaves behind his wife and two children, and countless friends and family members.

“To lose one of our own, one of our own firefighters, trying to save their life is unacceptable,” said Delahanty.

He wants Brian to be remembered as a hero.

“As a great man, a brother, and a good friend,” said Delahanty.

The St. George Island Volunteer Fire Department plans to honor brian in a unique way, by doing a special escort off the island to Brian’s funeral.

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