One man drowned and four others were sent to the hospital after lifeguards and Navarre Beach firefighters pulled eight people from a rip current Wednesday afternoon.
The Navarre Beach Fire Department responded to a call at a little after 2 p.m. behind 7909 Gulf Blvd., according to Chief Mike Howard.
“It was chaos when we got there,” he said. Firefighters launched their jet skis to assist two lifeguards in who were rescuing one of the men. He said when they returned to shore, they started CPR.
Holley-Navarre firefighters also responded.
Howard said five people were transported to the hospital – one by helicopter to Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, and four by ambulance to Gulf Breeze Hospital and Fort Walton Beach. A man in his 20s didn’t survive.
“They got caught in a bad rip current,” Howard said.
Yellow flags flew Wednesday, meaning a “medium hazard from moderate surf and/or currents.”
Lifeguards and firefighters responded to more than 40 rescues between Friday and Monday, when red flags were out all weekend.
Howard urges swimmers to pay attention to the flags and heed the warnings.
“We want everyone to have a good time, but we want them to be safe,” he said. “If you’re not a strong swimmer, don’t go out past your knees.”
He said the rescues took place in an area without lifeguards.
“Thank goodness someone saw it and called 911,” he said. “I can’t stress enough how important it is to heed the warnings. They’re there for a reason.”
Howard said the sheriff’s office is investigating the incident.
We’ll have more information as it becomes available.