DESTIN, Fla. (WMBB) — Destin lifeguards are expecting 40,000 or more people on area beaches for Memorial Day weekend. Beach Safety Division Chief said the season has been busy with 47 water rescues and multiple drownings.
“We’ve had quite a few drownings so far this year, a lot of it’s been after hours of the lifeguards, and a lot of it’s been people that did not heed our advice,” said Joe D’Agostino, Division Chief-Beach Safety. “They went swimming after we advised them they shouldn’t.”
With crowds ready to pack the emerald waters, lifeguards are there to keep them safe.
“Listen to the lifeguards. Always heed the advice of the beach patrol. We have had some jellyfish the last few weeks, so if you see a purple flag there’s a possibility that jellyfish are present. If you see a red flag, obviously get in the water with caution,” said D’Agostino.
D’Agostino said to watch how far out you swim in the water. The further out you are, the longer it will take to get help.
“If your toes are coming off the bottom, that’s way too far out. If you’re not a very experienced swimmer. If you can’t finish 100 yards in the pool, and if you don’t know 100 yards in the pool is, you definitely shouldn’t be leaving your feet in the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico,” said D’Agostino.
In 2022, lifeguards were added to Henderson Beach State Park. D’Agostino said the patrols have proven to make the beach safer.
“It’s incredible to finally have lifeguards in the State Park. There have been quite a few years of them averaging about three drownings per year and since we’ve implemented lifeguards in that State Park, we’re at zero,” said D’Agostino. “Just last week, a lifeguard came up upon a young man that was underwater for a little while, she started CPR and that man was released from the hospital yesterday with a full recovery.”
Lifeguards around Destin have been operating for nearly 20 years. D’Agostino says the growth they have had since the deadly summer of 2003 is noteworthy.
“You gotta have lifeguards. It’s been 20 years since June 8, 2003. I think sometimes it’s important for the community to remember what was and to realize what they have now,” said D’Agostino.