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After Crab Island drowning, officials remind people what to do in a current

The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office said a man was swept away from a rental pontoon boat...
The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office said a man was swept away from a rental pontoon boat during strong currents on Crab Island.(Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office)
Published: May. 31, 2022 at 9:05 PM CDT
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OKALOOSA COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - After a man died on Sunday after being swept away by a current on Crab Island, authorities are reminding people how to stay safe in the area.

“Basically all the water you get from Pensacola and basically all the water you get from Panama City, is trying to get out of that small opening of the East Pass,” Okaloosa Sheriff’s Office Capt. Jason Fulghum said. “When you get a large drop in the tide, that creates a very strong current that even an Olympic swimmer wouldn’t be able to swim against.”

People assume standing in knee-deep water is safe, but you could be getting yourself in a deadly situation when the tide changes.

“They get used to that, and then an hour, two hours later, the tide changes,” Fulghum said. “All that water starts moving out of the pass.”

He said the sand then pushes people from under their feet, causing the current to push them into deeper water.

Not knowing how to act in a current coupled with trying to stay above water can cause you to drown.

There are solutions, though.

“Having a depth finder on your boat is a good idea and understanding the tide is going to change at some point in time,” Fulghum said. “It might not be that day.”

Law enforcement also encourages you to wear a life jacket if you consider yourself to be a poor swimmer.

Fulghum said to swim toward shore if you find yourself in a current in the bay.

He also said if you swim parallel to shore if you’re in the bay you could be pulled back out into the gulf.

However, you should swim parallel to shore if you find yourself in a rip current at the beach.

You should never swim against a current.

Okaloosa County law enforcement says the Destin Fire Department, Coast Guard, and others are at Crab Island on a regular basis if you find yourself in danger.

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