More News:

June 22, 2024

Chester County couple drowns after getting caught in rip current during Florida vacation

Brian Warter, 51, and Erica Wishard, 48, of Downingtown, were swimming at Hutchinson Island on Thursday when they became trapped in the ocean.

Investigations Drownings
Couple Drown Florida Martin County Sheriff's Office/Facebook

A couple from Downingtown, Pennsylvania died in Florida on Thursday when they became trapped in the Atlantic Ocean by a strong rip current of the coast of Hutchinson Island, authorities said.

A Downingtown couple drowned on Thursday while swimming with their kids during a vacation in southeast Florida, where dangerous rip currents had formed off the shore of Hutchinson Island, authorities said.

Brian Warter, 51, and Erica Wishard, 48, were swimming with two of their six children around 1:30 p.m. when they became unable to return to shore due to the rip current, the Martin County Sheriff's Office said. The two kids were able to escape the current and attempted to help their parents, but ultimately had to return to shore to seek help.

Lifeguards were able to locate the couple and bring them to shore to attempt life-saving measures. They were taken to a hospital and later pronounced dead, authorities said.

Martin County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy John Budensiek told WPBF 25-News in Florida that multiple witnesses saw the couple "immediately pulled from the shore" by the rip current after getting into the ocean.

"One of the children of the deceased tried to yell to them instructions on how to swim parallel to the shore, but they were in panic mode and unfortunately went under," Budensiek said.

Rip currents are fast-moving channels of water that flow away from the shoreline, making it difficult even for expert swimmers to overcome their resistance, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They can occur anywhere, but often form nearby structures like jetties, piers and rocks that stick out of the water.

Lifeguards advise people to try to remain calm and signal for help from a lifeguard when caught in a rip current. Although powerful, the current is more likely to pull swimmers away from shore than drive them underwater.

Drownings often occur because people panic and tire themselves out trying to swim against the current. Moving parallel to the shore while calling for help may help a swimmer escape a particularly strong area of the rip current and move closer to shore. It's also advised that only lifeguards attempt to make rescues from rip currents, since many people drown trying to save others.

Officials said red flags had been placed at the beach on Thursday to indicate dangerous surf conditions and the National Weather Service had warned of high-risk rip currents along the coast. Hutchinson Island is on the southeast coast of Florida about 50 miles north of West Palm Beach. Authorities said Warter and Wishard traveled from Pennsylvania with their six kids, most of whom are teenagers.

"It is a beautiful place, but they don't realize how dangerous it can be," Budensiek said. "The ocean is strong and final when it gets a hold of you."