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Two Drown in Panama City Beach

By: Martha Spencer Email
By: Martha Spencer Email

Heavy rain forced many beachgoers to stay out of the water on Thursday.

However, over the last few days, double red flags have been flying on Panama City Beach. This week, two swimmers drowned in rough waters and 20-others were pulled from the Gulf of Mexico.

The Bay County Beach Patrol is working harder than ever. On Wednesday, 22 people were pulled from the rough waters in the gulf, and unfortunately, two of them did not survive.

Vacation time and warm water temperatures have proven to be strong temptations.

While the beaches were mainly empty on Thursday, this was not the case on Wednesday. Double red flags were flying, telling swimmers to stay out of the water. But unfortunately, many did not heed the warnings.

Chief Deputy David Humphreys II of the Panama City Beach Police says, "Anybody can get in trouble in that water, ya’ know. We've got people that claim to be strong swimmers; you can't fight Mother Nature and win".

Beach patrollers and even beach vendors with water experience were rescuing people all day Wednesday, pulling 22 swimmers out of the water.

Authorities say Gregory Zairis, and Laurie Lovett, were found dead before rescuers could rescue them.

"This occurred with a lifeguard standing there, blowing a whistle, screaming at these people to stay out of the water," said Humphreys.

Unfortunately, even with increased patrollers on the beach and from the skies, swimmers are continuing to drown.

Currently, there no permanent lifeguards on Panama City Beach, due to budgeting issues.

Humphreys said, "The city manager has recently approved a substantial increase in the pay. So, I don't foresee that happening before the end of this year. But I would imagine by the start of next tourist season, I would expect to see some lifeguards at the public properties, the City Pier; hopefully the county will do the same at the County Pier and Rick Seltzer Park."

Bad weather at the beach on Thursday actually gave beach patrollers a little bit of a break from the constant rescues they've been doing with the rough seas in the gulf.

Beach Patrol strongly urges all beach goers to remain completely out of the water when double red flags are flying.

"A lifeguard was standing there, he was trying to get these people out of the water. Sometimes, you can't protect people from themselves," said Humphreys.

As of Wednesday afternoon, two of the rescued swimmers are still hospitalized.

Bay County Emergency Medical Services also have extra paramedics’ on-call during these types of conditions.


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