SWFD reports drowning, advises swimmers to follow flag system


SOUTH WALTON, Fla. (WMBB)–First responders across the panhandle responded to dozens of water rescues each day this holiday weekend. The red flag conditions did not stop all swimmers. The South Walton Fire District says they had one drowning.

“We had I believe in about a 5 hour span, we had 20 water rescues and 1 fatality yesterday,” said David Vaughan, the Beach Safety Director for the South Walton Fire District.

The drowning happened around 2:00 p.m. by the Walton Dunes access, about 3.5 miles from the nearest lifeguard tower.

“Our jet ski operator happened to be on patrol and was flagged down by some bystanders and he found the patient before the dispatch even went out and got through to 911. So we got there as soon as we could and we did everything we could,” said Vaughan.

The South Walton Fire District reminds swimmers to always follow the flag system when visiting the beach and to never enter the Gulf when double red flags are flying.

“Whatever it is you think your fitness level is at, you are not bigger and badder than this Gulf. When it gets turned up like this, nothing that you’re going to do is going to overcome that,” said Vaughan.

While some swimmers may ignore the flag system, others say it’s a helpful tool.

“It’s important to know if there’s any tidal waters, if there’s an undertow, if there’s sharks. It’s a very useful system especially on the beaches that don’t have lifeguards,” said Jeffrey Glaser, a tourist.

Vaughan’s top tip for swimmers is to always be aware of your surroundings. To check the flags before heading out, you can download our Storm Track 13 mobile app.

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