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Date of Issue: May 28, 2008

Two drown off Longboat Key

Two men from New York drowned in the Gulf of Mexico off Longboat Key May 19, apparently caught in a riptide.

John Larry, 48, of Grand Island, N.Y., and Christopher Gugliuzza, 51, of Tonawanda, N.Y., were visiting the key with their wives when they ventured from their resort off the beach into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico near the 3400 block of Gulf of Mexico Drive, just south of the Manatee-Sarasota county line.

The two men were in waist-deep water when they apparently got caught in a riptide. They were swept from shore, and although other beachgoers swam out to aid them, both were pronounced dead at the scene.

Manatee County Marine Rescue Chief Jay Moyles said that riptides are not common on the Southwest Coast of Florida, but do occur.

The key, he said, is basically to go with the flow, in the event a swimmer encounters a riptide.

Nearshore waters, even in waist-deep water, he said, “is the birthplace of riptides. They start there and then flow out to deeper water.”

Let the currents carry you away from shore while you gently paddle across the currents, he advised, then swim back to the beach.

Or, Moyles said, ask a lifeguard what the current current conditions are. Or, best yet, be sure to swim where a lifeguard is present.

“I’d rather have a learned public than a blind, unknowing public,” he said.

Moyles also offered a seemingly simple but surprisingly unknown tip for beachgoers.

Use your cell phone camera to take a picture of your kids before they go out on the sand.

He said that lost kids are a huge problem for marine rescue. Parents often don’t remember the color of swimsuits and are so panicked they don’t offer good descriptions of their offspring. A cell phone shot gives lifeguards a much better chance of finding the lost child.