Rip currents in Panama City, Florida claim four lives in 48 hours

Panama City saw four drownings in the past two days (AFP/Getty Images)
Panama City saw four drownings in the past two days (AFP/Getty Images)

Four people drowned in just 48 hours in rip currents in Panama City, Florida, a startling rate that reminds beachgoers of the city’s deadly rip current record.

Three men from Birmingham, Alabama — Harold Denzel Hunter, 25, Jemonda Ray, 24, and Marius Richardson, 24 — were pronounced dead on Friday evening after they were caught in a rip current at the Florida beach, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office wrote in a statement.

“I have such a heavy heart this morning about the loss of three young visitors to our community. I’m praying for their family and ask that you do the same,” Sheriff Tommy Ford wrote. “It is such a tragedy.”

The tragedy arrives just one day after yet another: a 19-year-old from Oklahoma died after being caught in a rip current.

The young victim had been swimming on June 21 while one red flag was flying, signaling rough conditions. After the incident, officials prohibited access to the water, WMBB reported.

On another beach in Florida, a Pennsylvania couple drowned while visiting Hutchinson Island with their six children. “While in the water, the couple and two of the teens got swept out by a rip current. The kids were able to break the current and attempted to help their parents, but it became too dangerous and they were forced to swim ashore,” the Martin County Sheriff’s Office wrote. The couple was identified as Brian Warter, 51, and Erica Wishard, 48.

The cascade of rip current drownings follow a stark trend at Panama City beaches. Last year, Panama City rip currents killed at least eight people — more than anywhere else in the country, USA Today reported.

The state’s beaches carry a shocking reputation. Florida is home to 24 of the nation’s top 25 deadliest beaches, according to research by Simmrin Law, first reported by Fox Weather.

New Smyrna Beach earned the top title, followed by Panama City Beach, then Daytona Beach and then Miami Beach. The group told the outlet it factored in hurricanes, surf zone fatalities and shark attacks to make its determinations.