A 55-year-old man drowned off the coast of Treasure Island on Saturday, most likely due to strong rip currents.
Authorities were called to the 8400 block of Gulf Boulevard around 3 PM after receiving a 911 call. The call came shortly after beach-walkers spotted an unconscious body floating in the water near the beach and carried it to shore. First responders performed CPR on the man but they couldn’t save him.
The man was last seen swimming with friends in the Treasure Island area. The man’s name has not been released. Authorities have not yet notified the family.
Rip currents most likely played a role in the death as there were several other incidents that occurred within hours of the man’s death on Saturday involving water rescues along the Gulf coast of Pinellas county.
Rip currents account for 80% of all beach-related rescues and Florida Beach Safety dedicates a week in June to Rip Current Awareness.
Rip currents are channeled currents of water that flow away from the shore and can be very dangerous. Found generally near piers and jetties, they can vary in speed but average about one to two feet per second. However, rip currents have been measured to pull at about 8 feet per second which is much faster than a human can swim.
If caught in a rip current, don’t swim against the current. Swim parallel to the shoreline until through the current. Once free of the rip current, swim at an angle towards shore. If unable to reach the shore, draw attention from beach-goers to your location by waving your hands in the air.
If you see someone caught in a rip current, it is important not to jump in to help them as you could put yourself in danger of being caught. Instead, alert a lifeguard or the authorities of the emergency and throw the victim a flotation device and yell instructions on how to get out of the current safely. Flotation devices can include anything from a life jacket to an empty cooler to an inflatable ball.
If planning a trip to the beach, check the local weather service for alerts of strong currents.