Teen drowned an hour before Brevard County lifeguards went on duty

17-year-old surfer found facedown at Cocoa Beach Pier

Guarding beaches can be difficult in Brevard County
Guarding beaches can be difficult in Brevard County

COCOA BEACH, Fla. – As emergency responders rushed to the Cocoa Beach Pier at 9:15 a.m. Saturday, dispatchers reported it was unknown how long a 17-year-old boy had been in the water before a friend found him facedown and unresponsive, according to firefighters.

Brevard County lifeguards don’t start working at the pier’s lifeguard tower until 10 a.m.

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The Cocoa Beach fire department said surfers pulled the boy out of the water.

“They are on the sand, CPR in progress,” a dispatcher said.

It was also reported that an AED was used in attempt to save the boy’s life.

“You always want to swim at a beach that has a lifeguard during normal operation hours,” Brevard County Ocean Rescue Chief Eisen Witcher said.

Ocean rescue decides which beaches are guarded based on popularity, because the county said it can’t afford to guard all of its beaches, at all times.

“It’s very difficult to man 72 miles of shoreline, but people can certainly find us and hopefully, by swimming where there’s a lifeguard staying, it’ll be a lot safer,” Brevard County communications director Don Walker said.

In April, county commissioners voted 4-1 to make homeowners and businesses pay a 29% fire fee increase to benefit Brevard County Fire Rescue. The tax hike starts in November.

Ocean rescue is a part of fire rescue, but Brevard County Fire Rescue Chief Mark Schollmeyer said the extra money coming in cannot be used to help guard beaches because lifeguards are not fire-related in their duties.

Schollmeyer also said the county would have to build and staff an additional 50 lifeguard towers to guard all of its beaches and even then, the beaches still would not be guarded 24/7.

About the Author:

James joined News 6 in March 2016 as the Brevard County Reporter. His arrival was the realization of a three-year effort to return to the state where his career began. James is from Pittsburgh, PA and graduated from Penn State in 2009 with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.