Rise in Palm Beach rip current rescues

Strong rip currents along the coast of Palm Beach over the past six weeks appear to have resulted in the drowning of at least one person.

On March 6, Palm Beach police responded to a call about “a man floating in the ocean who appeared unresponsive” in the 400 block of South Ocean Boulevard.

James Asumbrado, 64, was immediately pulled from shore and placed on a stretcher, where Palm Beach Fire Rescue members began performing CPR on him, according to a police report. He was taken to Good Samaritan Medical Center in West Palm Beach, where he was pronounced dead. The report did not give a home address for Asumbrado.

Saved from rip current:Sisters rescued from rip current in Midtown Beach

How to avoid, survive rip currents:Lifeguards rescue man from rip current at Midtown Beach

Swimmers enjoy warm, windy conditions as rough seas, rip currents and the Portuguese man-of-war keep swimmers out of the water at Midtown Beach on Tuesday, March 22, 2022 in Palm Beach.  MEGHAN McCARTHY / The Palm Beach Daily News

Two witnesses said that as they walked on the beach, they saw Asumbrado drifting further in the choppy waves from the shore and appeared to be waving and shouting. They lost sight of him for about two to three minutes and did not see him again until his lifeless body washed up on the beach a few minutes later, at which time they called the police.

On Tuesday, rip current flags were placed around Midtown Beach after lifeguard Lex May rescued three people.

“I saw three men struggling in the ocean about 40 meters away. Two of them could swim so I told them to get out of the water. I had to use the rescue board to save the third man and paddle him back,” he told the Daily News.

A swimmer takes advantage of warm blustery conditions as rough seas, rip currents and the Portuguese man-of-war keep swimmers out of the water on Tuesday at Midtown Beach.

Chief lifeguard Craig Pollock said Wednesday that the constant presence of easterly winds onshore has led to an increased risk of rip currents for the past six weeks or so. But it’s not a strange occurrence since the current ripping season typically intensifies in October and continues through May, Pollock said.

Cooler weather this week could reduce the risk of currents, he said, but, of course, it’s all up to Mother Nature.

However, “I don’t expect us to have calm conditions until late May through June,” Pollock said.

Spring break brought an influx of people from the northeast, many unfamiliar with rip currents, he said, and there was an uptick in rescues.

Pollock said his team had “done a lot of pre-emptive rescue,” like putting information on signs and displaying flags in areas where rip currents are present. Most people obey the signs, he said.

In the meantime, he advises anyone bathing to use supervised beaches and swim near lifeguards.

EMS Division Chief Sean Baker highlighted Pollock’s advice.

“From a fire and emergency medical service perspective, we can’t stress enough that swimming at a supervised beach is imperative,” he said, noting that lifeguards are trained to look for dangerous conditions that an untrained eye might miss.

Lifeguards have the ability to get people out of harm’s way before it’s too late, so they handle many calls that don’t require EMS intervention, Baker said.

The city’s patrolled beaches are Phipps Ocean Park and Midtown Beach at the access points just south of Chilean Avenue and just north of Brazilian Avenue. Lifeguards are on duty from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

What to do if you are caught in a rip current

If you are caught in a rip current:

Stay calm to conserve your energy and think clearly.

Never fight against the current.

Think of it as a treadmill that can’t be turned off, that you have to approach.

Swim out of the current in a direction following the shore. When out of the current, swim at an angle – away from the current – towards the shore.

If you can’t swim out of the rip current, float or walk calmly on the water. Once out of the current, swim to shore.

If you still can’t make it to shore, draw attention to yourself by waving your arm and shouting for help.

Multimedia journalist Damon Higgins contributed to this story.

Carol Rose is a reporter for the Palm Beach Daily News, part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. You can reach her at [email protected] Help support our journalism. Subscribe today.

Midtown Beach is one of two supervised beaches in the city.  The other is Phipps Ocean Park.

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