Miami Beach

A rip current turns a Miami Beach visit tragic for one group of tourists

Rip currents can be a hazard on South Florida beaches.
Rip currents can be a hazard on South Florida beaches. Miami Herald File Photo

A visit to Miami Beach by a group of family and friends turned tragic when they went for a swim and got caught in a rip current.

On Thursday evening, the group, visiting from Illinois and staying in West Palm Beach, had headed to Miami Beach to swim in the ocean off 17th Street, according to a police report.

Several of the swimmers “were in distress” some time before 7 p.m. when officers received a 911 call, Miami Beach police spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez said.

Ocean Rescue, along with Miami Beach police, responded to assist the group of two girls, one boy and three adults. The children were all 11.

Mickey Delgado and Abel Castillo of Ocean Rescue paddled out with a backboard and pulled Maria Rosario Perez from the water. Perez, 35, was sent to Mount Sinai Medical Center. She died shortly after arriving, police said.

Miami Beach Officer Lee Claire, on a marine patrol boat, rescued Eleazor Rangal, 39, and transported him to the marina, where they were met by fire rescue.

The three children and the one remaining and unidentified adult, 37, made it to shore with help from bystanders and were also sent to Mount Sinai. They are stable “and expected to be OK,” Rodriguez said.

How to survive a rip current

The American Red Cross offers the following tips on staying safe when rip currents are around. You should first heed warnings — lifeguards will often post signs or flags — and avoid the water under these conditions. Rip tides are common during storms, even if they are far out to sea. They are also common some 100 feet surrounding piers and jetties.

If you do happen to get caught in a rip tide, here’s what to do:

Stay calm and don’t fight the current.

Swim parallel to the shore with the current until you are out of it. Once free, turn and swim at an angle away from the current toward the shore.

Can’t escape the rip current by swimming? Float or tread water until you are free and then head toward the shore.

If you feel you will be unable to reach the shore, call attention to yourself by waving and shouting for help.

Rip currents are powerful, narrow channels of fast-moving water. Rip currents account for 80% of beach rescues, and can be dangerous or deadly if you don't know what to do. This video shows you how to break the grip of the rip.

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