NewsPinellas County


Swimmers, firefighters rescued from rip current at St. Pete Beach

Posted at 10:25 PM, Jul 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-24 23:11:53-04

ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. — The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said at least four people became stuck in a rip current about 40 to 50 yards offshore on St. Pete Beach.

Deputies responded to 4700 Gulf Boulevard on St. Pete Beach around 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday after several swimmers could not get back to shore due to a strong current.

"The current was kind of crazy. You would move forward one stroke and then it would take you two or three strokes back so you we're fighting," said Lewis Mazzone.

Lewis Mazzone said he saw four swimmers struggling to get to shore. He rushed into the water to try and help.

"Someone had a boogie board. I tied it to my arm and I swam out as fast as I could. I use to be a lifeguard for six years," said Mazzone.

RELATED: Heading to the beach this summer? Brush up on these rip current safety tips

Mazzone said he first rushed over to a father and daughter who were stuck in the current.

"I gave the boogie board to the father. The daughter had a board. I went and pulled her and swam back in with her then when she was safe and on land, I went back out for dad," said Mazzone.

Mazzone said he fought the current.

"We waited for a wave to take us and then I had to swim as fast as I could to prevent from sliding backwards which was happening," said Mazzone.

Three firefighters from the St. Pete Beach Fire Department swam out to help, but they were also caught in the rip current.

"More and more people were going out to help and then getting stuck out there," said witness Tanya Freeman-May.

A sheriff's office Marine Unit rescued one of the firefighters by using a boat. The other two were pulled back to shore by ropes.

"I think everyone on the beach started pulling in the rope to go and get the last one out because everyone in the water was exhausted," said Mazzone.

Deputies said one swimmer was treated at an area hospital for minor injuries. No other injuries were reported.

The rescue lasted nearly 20 minutes, according to the sheriff's office.

"The guy that got transported to the hospital....he said, I can't believe everybody came to help. I said that's the nice thing about human nature when you all need to, you all come together," said Freeman-May.