SARASOTA, Fla. — Sarasota Police officers are investigating after a man drowned in Sarasota Bay on the 4th of July.
This Independence Day, Darrell Hancock expected a peaceful lunch by Centennial Park’s waterfront. Until one piercing sound stopped him cold.
“He was waving his hands up and down going ‘Help, help, help!'" described Hancock.
About 40 yards past the boat ramp he noticed two men. One wasn’t moving at all and the other treading water while trying to help his friend stay afloat.
“First boat I said ‘go get these guys, they are right there off the coast. Go get 'em, go get 'em!" said Hancock.
According to Sarasota Police, officers responded to the area of Centennial Park and the 10th Street Boat Ramp area around 12:15 p.m. Wednesday for two swimmers in distress.
When officers arrived, they determined two adult males went swimming for an unknown amount of time.
Police say that the two men lost each other in the water and one man found the other man unconscious a short time later. After treading water, a passing boat noticed the two men and called 911.
Sarasota Police Marine Patrol responded and found the two men, one alive and one deceased. The age of the deceased male is approximately mid-50s. His identity has not been released at this time.
“I don’t know what was involved in this situation why they were swimming out that far but he was out past the marker out there.”
Hancock has been left shaken by the situation.
“It was supposed to be a Fourth of July... everybody enjoying themselves," he said.
Hancock prays this won’t happen to anyone else tonight.
According to 2016 data from the National Safety Council, July is the deadliest month for drowning with more than 650 deaths in the U.S. So what can you do? Start by wearing a life jacket. Don’t swim or boat under the influence and remain attentive of everyone in your group.
Paul Wroblewski, an experienced boater, also urges families to avoid swimming by busy boat ramps.
“Visibility is bad, you got rocks and shells and oysters. The beaches have lifeguards and they can keep an eye on you a little better," he said.
Meanwhile, Hancock is thinking only of the family that will get the heartbreaking news tonight.
“God bless you. I pray for your family, for your kids and everybody involved in this situation. It’s bad," he said.
Detectives with the Sarasota Police Department Criminal Investigation Division have taken over the investigation.
Detectives believe the incident appears to be accidental in nature and no foul play is suspected. The name of the victim will be released once next of kin is contacted. The investigation is ongoing.