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Rip Current

Sarasota County Fire Department Lifeguard Rescues Family of Seven Caught in Rip Current

| Angela Naff |

Off-duty Sarasota County Fire Department Lifeguard Mariano Martinez rescued seven swimmers in distress and helped more swimmers to safety after a rip current carried them more than 200 yards into the Gulf of Mexico on June 22.

A strong storm struck Sarasota County around 5 p.m. Saturday, typical of the Gulf Coast of Florida, creating dangerous post-storm conditions such as rip currents.

Martinez, a six-year veteran lifeguard for Sarasota County following 15 years of lifeguarding in his home country of Argentina, was at Lido Beach the night the storm rolled through when he received a water rescue alert through the Pulse Point app.

Despite being off-duty, Martinez’s instincts kicked in and he leapt into action, grabbing a rescue tube and swimming out to a group of swimmers in distress caught in a rip current, over 200 yards away from shore.

Rip currents are powerful channels of water moving away from shore, capable of pulling even the strongest swimmers out to deeper waters.  

Upon reaching the swimmers, Martinez discovered nine swimmers, most in distress. Two had tried to rescue the others before Martinez arrived. Martinez, in Spanish, urged the group to stay as calm as possible. He quickly secured one swimmer with a rescue tube, helping two more to shore before returning for the first swimmer. He made multiple trips to rescue the remaining swimmers, using bodyboards to bring them back to share safely.

“I have, always, in my car, or wherever I am, my rescue stuff because I love responding,” said Martinez.

Martinez said in these situations, it is important to think quickly and make decisions.

Tears gathered in his eyes when he tried to put into words how it felt to help so many people.

“I can’t explain the feeling,” said Martinez. “You cannot explain when you are watching a person and his or her life is in your hands.”

Six were evaluated, and one was treated and released at the scene by Sarasota County Fire Department personnel.

Martinez’s quick thinking and decisive action saved the lives of these swimmers.

“It’s days like this that make the work we do so rewarding,” said Sarasota County Fire Department Lifeguard Chief Rick Hinkson. “Working with someone as selfless and brave as Mariano makes it all that much better. He truly went above and beyond to save the family, and that is something to be commended. We’re proud to have him as a lifeguard here with us.”

Rip currents are dangerous, it is important for swimmers to always swim near a lifeguard and know their limits. If there’s ever a doubt about whether they should enter the water, don’t take the risk. Remember “If in doubt, don’t go out.”

If caught in a rip current, remain calm, signal for help, and swim parallel to the shore until out of the current’s grip, then head diagonally towards the shoreline.

For Sarasota County, beach conditions, go to Visit Beaches.  Sarasota County Fire Department Lifeguards are on duty, in their stands from 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. daily on six beaches: Lido, Siesta, Nokomis, North Jetty, Venice and Manasota.

Learn more about rip currents and rip current safety here

Photo From MidJourney

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