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Group of 12 swimmers rescued from Gulf of Mexico waters

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Twelve young swimmers were pulled from the Gulf of Mexico by rescue teams July 4 near Sycamore Avenue in Anna Maria after they were unable to swim some 300 feet back to shore.

West Manatee Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Brett Pollock said the youngsters apparently were caught in a strong northerly current and could not swim back to shore. They shouted for help and nearby beachgoers called 911.

Pollock said Manatee County Marine Rescue personnel on personal watercrafts were the first responders to arrive to the scene around 3:30 p.m. They began bringing the youngsters to shore aboard the small rescue crafts.

WMFR emergency medical staff, a boat and fire rescue vehicles were dispatched to assist, as were Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies from the Anna Maria substation.

Pollock said the swimmers had drifted from 200 feet offshore to 300 feet by the time county lifeguards, who were dispatched from the Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach, began pulling them to safety.

“They were examined by medical staff but there were no injuries and everyone returned safely to shore,” Pollock said.

The incident serves as a caution to swimmers. In addition to strong currents that occasionally flow north or south along the shore, Anna Maria Island beaches also can produce rip tides and currents that can pull even the strongest swimmer away from land.

It’s a good idea to swim with others and know the beach advisory for a particular location, Pollock said.

There were no rip current advisories July 4, but thunderstorms from the southwest moved through the island area that afternoon, bringing strong currents with them.

MCSO Sgt. Paul Davis of the Anna Maria substation said his deputies were on hand to assist if needed.

Davis praised the work of the marine rescue unit for quick action in getting to the area and bringing the swimmers to safety on their small watercraft.

“Thankfully, everyone returned to shore safely and a life-threatening situation was avoided,” he said.

4 Responses to Group of 12 swimmers rescued from Gulf of Mexico waters

  1. Cody Wood says:

    How many deaths and life threatening incidents is it going to take before warning signs are posted so that beach goers are made aware of the hazards of rip currents in that area? Better yet, why hasn’t it become a priority to install life guard stations there?

    When you think about it, there seems that more time, attention and money are spent to protect turtles than bathers on our Island beaches.

    Maybe a lawsuit might wake up the powers that be!!

  2. Tracie Velarde says:

    To Cody Wood-
    Lifeguard stands (stations) DO POST WARNING FLAGS of the current conditions of the water. They are different colors for each condition. The meaning of each color is on each lifeguard stand. If you go swimming where there is NOT a lifeguard stand then you should have the common sense to know that “you swim at your own risk”….or do you need a “warning sign” posted for that too?

  3. Tracie Velarde says:

    My son is a lifeguard on this beach….He risks HIS LIFE every time he goes out. Things happen, but it pisses me off for him to be put in danger to save someone that doesn’t pay attention to the warning flags or use their common sense.

  4. David Fuith says:

    Cody’s point is a good one. There are no lifeguard stations in Anna Maria from which a swimmer might see warning flags.

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