Staggering rise in water rescues

To say Navarre Beach first responders have been busy this tourist season is a gross understatement – the number of water rescues performed so far in 2015 is already more than triple all those which took place during the first half of 2014.

Terry Wallace, who oversees county operations on Navarre Beach, said from January through June 2014 there were a total of 22 water rescues. “This year to date there have been 75,” Wallace said during a June 19 first responder training exercise.

About a dozen lifeguards and firefighters from Holley-Navarre Fire District and Navarre Beach Fire Rescue practiced jet ski assists and hand signals from shore.

But training can only go so far. Wallace said Santa Rosa County, unlike Pensacola Beach, does not have an ordinance which enables lifeguards to pursue enforcement of water closures due to rough surf.

“The Sheriff’s Office has no authority to write citations,” Chief Mike Howard of Navarre Beach Fire Rescue said.

Matt Ritter, head guard for Navarre Beach lifeguards, said staff can only suggest beachgoers stay out of the water during high surf and rip currents.

Read the full story in the June 25 edition of Navarre Press or subscribe online here.

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