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Date of Issue: August 18, 2010

2 drown off Anna Maria beach

A brother and sister drowned and two other family members were injured Aug. 12 when a rip current pulled the four under the Gulf of Mexico waters in Anna Maria.

Gerardo Hernandez, no age provided, and Josefina Pardo, 71, were pronounced dead at Blake Medical Center, according to a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office report. They were visiting from Lutz and the Tampa area.

Pardo’s husband, Braulio Pardo Sr., 78, and their 54-year-old son Al Pardo were in stable condition at Blake Medical Center Aug. 12, and were later released in good condition.

The drowning occurred in Anna Maria at about 3:30 p.m. north of the Sandbar Restaurant at the beach end of Sycamore Avenue.

Capt. Larry Leinhauser with Manatee County public safety office said the husband and son were attempting to rescue the victims.

He also said Pardo was floating on a raft, but it turned out one of the rescuers went to the victims’ aid in an inflatable boat.

Leinhauser said the deaths were a result of cardiac arrest. “We tried everything. Advanced life support, CPR, drugs, but they didn’t survive,” Leinhauser said.

Family members said in a Blake Medical Center news release the family was standing in waist-high water when the rip tide suddenly pulled them under and carried them away from shore. They were not out swimming or floating on a raft in deeper water, as some reports have indicated.

Leinhauser said the area is a dangerous one to swim in because it is close to a pass.

Manatee County EMS units and marine rescue, West Manatee Fire Rescue, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies and Longboat Key Fire Rescue all assisted, Leinhauser said.

Just three weeks ago, Terry Cox, 50, drowned after being swept away by a current while wade-fishing with a friend under the Anna Maria Island Bridge near the Intracoastal Waterway. His body was found south of Manatee Avenue just 120 yards away from where he had been fishing in shallow water.

Sandbar a saving grace for survivors

A small sandbar outside Bean Point on Anna Maria Island turned out to be the saving grace for two survivors in the Aug. 12 swimming incident that resulted in the deaths of Gerardo Hernandez and Josefina Pardo.

The first rescuer got a small foothold on a sandbar and called to the swimmers, according to a Blake Medical Center news release. Both were near drowning and extremely fatigued, but swam across the riptide toward the patch of sand.

“Thank God for the bit of sand,” said brother Gerardo Pardo, who wasn’t with the family at the time the accident took their mother and uncle. “It was miraculous that Al found it.”

The two injured men were released from the hospital in good condition.

Once free from the current, the release said, Al Pardo swam with his wife and brother to shore, where he found two girls with a small inflatable boat. Al Pardo got the boat and swam back to his parents, the release said. His father was near drowning and his mother was face down in the water. Al Pardo turned his mother over to attempt resuscitation.

Braulio Pardo Sr. said later at Blake Medical Center he was near death when his son brought the raft. He said he remembers two women, whom he later learned was a mother and a daughter, and a young man came after his son and helped kick the flotation back to shore.

“I want to know their names and be able to thank them,” Braulio Pardo Sr. said from his hospital bed, according to the release. “They helped save my life and the lives of my family by their courage.”

But Josefina Pardo was unable to be saved. “She was an amazing woman,” Braulio Pardo said in the release. “She would get up really early to make coffee and breakfast for her sons. And say a blessing for Al and I, and all firefighters, before we went out on a shift at the fire department. She wanted us to stay connected as a family. We’re still going to do that … go to their house before work and make coffee. She’d want that.”

Gerardo Hernandez, who died, was an uncle and brother-in-law of the survivors, came to the United States to support his family in Cuba. He left behind a wife, seven children, seven grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Baseball also runs in the family. Al Pardo became the first Spanish-born Major League Baseball player when he joined the Baltimore Orioles in 1980. He later played for the Philadelphia Phillies. Braulio Pardo Jr. also played for the Orioles.

Gerardo Pardo played for the Detroit Tigers.

Braulio Pardo III now plays for the Los Angeles Angels and flew in to be with the family, the release said.

Rip currents cause concern

The warning flags found at public beaches in Florida.

State officials and lifeguards are reminding swimmers about the potential for moderate- to high-risk rip currents, which can be dangerous for even experienced swimmers.

A rip current is a narrow, powerful current of water running perpendicular to the beach, out into the ocean. The currents may extend 200 to 2,500 feet lengthwise, but they are typically less than 30 feet wide.

Rip currents can often move at more than 5 mph or faster.

In Florida, rip currents kill more people annually than thunderstorms, hurricanes and tornadoes combined. They are the No. 1 concern for beach lifeguards. According to the U.S. Lifesaving Association, 80 percent of surf beach rescues are attributed to rip currents.

So, when at the beach:

        • Whenever possible, swim at a lifeguard-protected beach.

        • Never swim alone.

        • Learn how to swim in the surf. It’s not the same as swimming in a pool or lake.

        • Be cautious at all times, especially when swimming at unguarded beaches. If in doubt, don’t go out.

        • Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards. Lifeguards are trained to identify potential hazards.

        • Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist alongside these structures.

        • Consider using polarized sunglasses when at the beach. They will help you to spot signatures of rip currents by cutting down glare and reflected sunlight off the ocean’s surface.

        • Pay especially close attention to children and elderly when at the beach. Even in shallow water, wave action can cause loss of footing.

        • If caught in a rip current remain calm to conserve energy, think clearly and do not fight against the current.
Beachgoers at Coquina and Manatee Public beaches on Anna Maria Island will find flags at lifeguard stations notifying swimmers of current water conditions.

When rip currents and heavy waves pose a problem, lifeguards with the Manatee County Marine Rescue Division “fly the ‘No Swimming’ flags on the areas that pose a potential threat and advise people to move down to the areas that are open for swimming, body surfing etc,” said division chief Jay Moyles.

For more information about rip currents, go to