Three people die in Gulf of Mexico

Three people lost their lives in the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday due to severe conditions at Panama City Beach, Florida. The deaths bring the total number of fatalities in surf zone incidents at the location to seven this year, the highest in the country. Rip currents were involved in all seven incidents, which can be powerful enough to carry people away from shore.

The Panama City Beach Police Department reported that three people died in separate “water incidents” in the Gulf of Mexico near three different resorts on Saturday afternoon. The victims were identified as Kimberly Ann Mckelvy Moore, 39, of Lithonia, Georgia; Morytt James Burden, 63, of Lithia Springs, Georgia; and Donald Wixon, 68, from Canton, Michigan. Moore was rescued by lifeguards but was pronounced dead at the hospital. Burden died shortly after being rescued, and Wixon died after being rescued later in the day.

Florida leads the nation in surf zone deaths with 27, followed by Puerto Rico with 13. Rip currents are the primary hazard for beachgoers in the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The nonprofit United States Lifesaving Association has reported that more than 100 deaths each year in the U.S. involve rip currents, and 80 percent of lifeguard rescues are for rip currents.

On Saturday, the police department described the conditions at Panama City Beach as severe, with “double red flags” warning of extreme danger. Daryl Paul, beach safety director for Panama City Beach Fire Rescue, emphasized the importance of swimming near a lifeguard, stating that it is the safest place to be when visiting the beach. Those caught in a rip current should not swim against it but should swim parallel or at an angle towards shore or yell for help. It may also be possible to float or tread water until the current turns more towards shore.

The deaths at Panama City Beach highlight the dangers of rip currents and the importance of beach safety. Visitors to the beach should be aware of the conditions and heed warnings from lifeguards and other officials. The National Weather Service provides daily beach forecasts and rip current risk levels for locations across the country, which can help beachgoers make informed decisions about their safety.