Three people died in the Gulf of Mexico during severe conditions Saturday off Panama City Beach, Florida, officials said, bringing fatalities there this year in surf break incidents to a national high of seven.
The three people died in separate «water incidents» in the Gulf of Mexico near three different resorts on Saturday afternoon, the Panama City Beach Police Department said in a statement.
So far this year, seven people have been killed in incidents at the surf break in Panama City Beach, which is the most for any place in the US so far this year, according to a National Weather Service list.
All seven are listed by the National Weather Service as being associated with rip currents, which are powerful currents that can carry people away from shore.
The three who died Saturday were identified by police as Kimberly Ann Mckelvy Moore, 39, of Lithonia, Georgia; Morytt James Burden, 63, of Lithia Springs, Ga.; and Donald Wixon, 68, of Canton, Michigan.
Moore was rescued by first responders around noon and transported to a hospital where she was pronounced dead; Burden died after being rescued shortly after 1 p.m.; and Wixon died after being rescued at 4:23 p.m., police said.
On Saturday there were what police described as severe conditions with «double red flags» warning of extreme danger, the police department said.
This year, Florida leads the US in deaths in the wave zone, with 27, according to the weather service’s list. Puerto Rico, with 13, had the second most deaths.
Rip currents are the number one danger to swimmers in the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
It is estimated that more than 100 deaths each year in the US involve rip currents, and 80 percent of lifeguard rescues are from rip currents, the nonprofit organization The United States Lifesaving Association has said.
Those caught in one should not swim against it, but should instead swim parallel or at an angle to the shore, or yell for help, he says. It may also be possible to float or tread the water until the current turns more towards the shore.
“The safest place to be when you come to the beach is near a lifeguard,” Daryl Paul, director of beach safety for Panama City Beach Fire Rescue, told NBC affiliate WJHG of Panama City. “And I will always pump that. Swim near a lifeguard.”