VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Over the holiday weekend, rip currents led to one woman drowning and hundreds of rescues in Volusia County.
A 68-year-old woman visiting New Smyrna Beach drowned Saturday evening after she got caught in a rip current, according to Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue.
The woman was visiting from Cocoa Beach and swimming in an unguarded area of the beach just before 8 p.m., officials said.
Beach officials said an off-duty sergeant was leaving for the day when he saw several people, including the woman, struggling in the water.
The 68-year-old was brought to shore, where the off-duty sergeant performed CPR. The woman was taken to a hospital, where she later died.
Officials said 328 people were rescued over the weekend off Volusia County. There were 212 rescues on Saturday and 116 rescues on Sunday.
Monday proved to be busy for lifeguards, too.
Volusia Beach Safety said it had dozens of rescues, including a teenager who was taken to the hospital. The rescue put beachgoers on high alert.
“We just saw the person way out there. They all ran out, all of the trucks came, and that’s when we saw it was a kid,” said Jennifer Gardner, who was visiting Daytona Beach. “We’ve kept the kids really close up so, that way, they don’t get caught in any kind of current or anything like that.”
Capt. Tammy Malphurs said the teen is expected to be all right. She said lifeguards managed to get him within seconds.
“That’s why it’s so important for people to remember to only swim in front of a staffed tower,” she said.
Volusia Beach Safety is also facing a lifeguard staff-shortage, making it even more important to pay attention to where the guards are.
“It affects how many people we have on the beach, but obviously, it hasn’t affected our rescue counts,” Malphurs said. “Even the strongest swimmers can get caught in a rip current. That’s why it’s so important to be in front of those lifeguard towers. A lot of times, they can see you in trouble before you even realize it.”
Volusia County has a Beaches app for mobile phones to show where lifeguards are, what rip current conditions are like and which beach access ramps are open.
Malphurs said they update the app in real time for beachgoers to see conditions. You can find it here.