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Missouri woman becomes fifth victim in four days of Florida beach town’s dangerous riptides

Five drownings within four days off the same area of Florida coast has officials warning what beach flags mean, and offering tips to stay safe this summer.

A 60-year-old woman from Missouri has become the fifth tourist in four days to die off the shore of Panama City Beach, Florida.

Debbie Szymanski of St. Louis was found unresponsive by family members in Gulf waters around 11:30 a.m. Sunday. They were bringing her to shore when Bay County Sheriff’s Office deputies and emergency medical services arrived on scene near Carillon on the west end of Panama City Beach, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post.

Szymanski was taken to a hospital where she was pronounced dead, the sheriff’s office said. She was a victim of a riptide, the New York Post reported. 


Two days prior, three young Alabama men who had traveled to the same area with a group of friends had just checked into their rental and went for a swim when they got into distress, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post. 

BEACH SAFETY TIPS: 7 THINGS TO DO IN A RIP CURRENT AND HOW TO STAY SAFE NEAR THE WATER

“The three men were caught in a rip currently shortly after entering the water,” the post said. They have been identified as Harold Denzel Hunter, 25; Jemonda Ray, 24 and Marius Richardson, 24, from Birmingham. All three were fathers.

Last Thursday, 19-year-old Ryker Milton from Oklahoma died after being caught in a rip current off Panama City Beach, Oklahoma City TV station KOCO reported.  

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BE WELL: PREVENT DROWNING WITH THESE CHILD SAFETY WATER TIPS 

Bay County Sheriff’s Office’s latest Facebook post reminds beach goers that single red flags posted on the shores means there are strong currents in the water. 

That same day, a Pennsylvania couple visiting Florida with their six children drowned after they were caught in a rip current while swimming.

PENNSYLVANIA PARENTS VACATIONING WITH CHILDREN IN FLORIDA DROWN AFTER GETTING CAUGHT IN RIP CURRENT

Brian Warter, 51, 48-year-old Erica Wishard, and two of their mostly teenage children were caught in the current on Hutchinson Island along Florida’s southeast coast, the Martin County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post. It added that the two children were able to break free of the current and tried to help their parents but were forced to swim ashore when conditions became too dangerous.

Martin County Ocean Rescue attempted life-saving measures and took the couple to a local hospital, where they were pronounced dead, according to the sheriff’s office.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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