The drowning death of a 23-year-old man from Mobile has led officials at the Gulf Islands National Seashore to consider whether there are sufficient surf condition flags to warn swimmers of the danger. The young man lost his life on April 4 while trying to save a 6-year-old girl and her mother from a dangerous rip tide. Add to that the boat accident off Pensacola Beach on Sunday, and we should all pause for a moment to renew our focus on boating and water safety.
Budget constraints mean no warning flags in 5 out of 8 National Seashore parking lots
On April 4, a family group of five headed to the Gulf Islands National Seashore near Santa Rosa for a day of spring swimming. They were unaware of the danger before the tragic fatal accident. The 23-year-old was pulled down by a dangerous rip current.
According to the Pensacola News Journal, surf condition warning flags are posted at three parking lots near guarded swimming beaches in the national park, but no flags are posted at five other parking areas.
Park rangers are now considering whether they have the budget and resources to post warning flags at all of the parking lots, which would require personnel to change the flags at least once and sometimes twice a day. With the current cutbacks in federal spending, however, it could be difficult.
In the meantime, water safety supervisor John Hunter is trying to launch a Beach Safety Walks program in which lifeguards will walk unguarded beaches and warn visitors of rip currents and other dangers. The walks will take place every Saturday beginning on May 28.
Pensacola Beach Public Safety offers water safety classes to any interested group, including a class called “Rip Current 101.” To schedule a class, call (850) 554-4430.
Coast Guard offering free vessel safety checks this Saturday in Navy Point
Although luck was with the group involved in Sunday’s boat accident off of Pensacola Beach, an accident on the water can be extremely serious, leading to serious injuries or even wrongful death.
Keep yourself and your passengers safe by taking advantage of a free vessel safety check offered by the Pensacola Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 01-07. The Flotilla is offering the free inspections this Saturday, April 23, at Navy Point in Warrington from 9:00 a.m. to noon.
The inspection takes about 15 minutes. A Coast Guard-certified vessel examiner will check whether your boat complies with state and federal boating safety laws, and includes inspecting life jackets, registration and numbering, navigation lights, ventilation and distress signals.
For details about Saturday’s event, or to schedule a free vessel safety check at another time, call (850) 324-6486 or visit the Flotilla’s website at www.pensacolaflotilla.org.
- Pensacola News Journal, “Family grieves over drowning at Gulf Islands National Seashore,” Kimberly Blair, April 15, 2011
- Pensacola News Journal, “Coast Guard plans boat-safety checks,” April 17, 2011
- Pensacola News Journal, “Boat capsizes off Pensacola Beach,” Travis Griggs, April 17, 2011