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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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Stephie Location: nunya on Jun 2, 2009 at 10:48 AM
    My Aunt was not a fool, Old Man!
  • by Steven Location: Panama City on Feb 18, 2009 at 09:15 AM
    The statement about how you can not protect people from themselves is completely true.I worked beach service this past o8' season as a beasch attendant when the double red flags went up and you tried to get people out of the water they just did not listen. THey only listened when you had to go save them.This past year my co-worker Chris told a lady about ten times to keep herself and her kids out of the water, the last time he told her not even five minutes past she was past the Sand piper beach resort a good 200 yards from where we were at. when we pulled her out of the water she said she had it under controll. people from out of town don't understand the danger of the ocean.They belive it is safe at all times. The Beach attendants who are lifeguards and the Surf patrol do outstanding job saving people from the horrendous power of the ocean. They risk their lives for somebody they don't even know. They can't save every one. next time you see a lifeguard say thank you.
  • by Recent Vacationer Location: Texas on Aug 3, 2008 at 08:17 PM
    I recently spent vacation with my family on beautiful PCB and was amazed at the visitors who ignored the double red and purple flags flying. In addition, the beach patrol and sheriffs helicoptor flying overhead with sirens telling people to get out of the water. In addition, we had already heard of a drowning while we were there. The people got out of the water and then proceeded to march back in after the authorities left. I was so astounded by the stupidity of these people telling their children "Wait til they leave and you can go back in!" I was not popular with my kids at the time, but they made it home alive versus becoming a statistic. How frustrating it must be for those hard working authorities trying to save stupid people and the PCB natives who have to keep hearing about it when it can be prevented. I think they should be fined at the least or maybe tagged with a tracking device like animals so you can find them more easily in the water later.
  • by Florida Resident on Aug 1, 2008 at 08:59 AM
    If double red flags are flying and people still chose to enter the water, "AT THEIR OWN RISK' " what is PCB rescuing them anyone? Make it a crime and arrest them for attempted suicide, child endagerment, anything possible becasue STUPID is not a crime yet!!!! We shouldn't have to put rescue personnel's lives in jeopardy for people who CHOSE to tempt faith and the fury of the sea. The warnings and flag definitions are posted at all beach entrances, that should be enough. AT YOUR OWNS RISH, AS IS NO WARRANTY, CAVEAT EMPTOR...they are all legal claims.
  • by Old Man Location: Cowarts on Aug 1, 2008 at 07:54 AM
    When there's a double RED flag out. WHY don't the people who disreguard , and go swimming anyway get a BIG FAT FINE !! Hello! DOUBLE RED FLAGS ! STAY OUT OF THE WARTER. Darn Fools!!!
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