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.