Parents on vacation with children drown after being caught in rip current

Rescue crews and lifeguards on a beach in Florida

STUART, Fla. — A family from Pennsylvania was vacationing in Florida when the parents were caught in a rip current Thursday and drowned.

The family was visiting Stuart Beach on Hutchinson Island on the southeast coast, Fox News reported.

The parents, identified as Brian Warter and Erica Wishard, along with their two teenagers were swept out to sea, the Martin County Sheriff’s Office said.

KYW reported the family was from Downingtown, Pennsylvania.

The sheriff’s office said that the teens were able to break out of the current. They tried to get to their parents to save them but were unable to and were forced to swim back.

One of the children called 911 for help, WPEC reported.

“The children, at least one of their children, called 911. Our dispatcher can hear the child yelling, trying to talk them through swimming parallel, relaxing, letting the rip current take you, as opposed to fighting it. But, unfortunately, they were not strong enough swimmers,” Chief Deputy John Budensiek said, according to WPEC.

Martin County Ocean Rescue got to Warter and Wishard and pulled them from the water and performed CPR. The couple was taken by ambulance to an area hospital, where they were pronounced dead.

A sheriff’s deputy helped the couple’s six children as they waited for family members to arrive in Florida.

“They are teenagers. They’re not even in their 20s yet. They’ve been through two dramatic scenarios,” Budensiek said. “They’re on the beach and watched them drown. They watched the resuscitation efforts on the beach. They were at the hospital watching some resuscitation efforts, so they’re extremely traumatized.”


Posted by Martin County Sheriff's Office on Thursday, June 20, 2024

There was a single red flag posted at the beach Thursday afternoon, WPEC reported. The flag indicated rough surf.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that “rip currents are powerful, narrow channels of fast-moving water.” They are common on the East, Gulf and West coasts and the Great Lakes.

They can measure from 50 to 300 feet wide and form near the shore, breaks between sandbars or human-made structures.

They move as fast as eight feet a second, or about 5 miles an hour, and kill about 100 people a year, NOAA said.

To escape a rip current, you should not do what may be instinctual — swimming directly to shore. By doing so you risk drowning from becoming fatigued.

Instead, you should, “Stay afloat, yell for help, swim parallel to the shore. Do not exhaust yourself fighting the current,” NOAA said.

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