Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

HUTCHINSON ISLAND, Fla. — A Pennsylvania couple vacationing in Florida with their six children drowned after they were caught in a rip current while swimming, authorities said.

Brian Warter, 51, and 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.

“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,” investigators said.

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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.

A crisis intervention deputy is assisting the children while other family members travel to meet them in Florida. The sheriff’s office did not say where in Pennsylvania the family was from.

A rip current is a fast-moving column of water that flows away from the shore toward open water. Officials say swimmers caught in one should remain calm and then swim parallel to the shore to escape the current.

Fire Rescue officials said there were red flags at the beach Thursday, indicating the possibility of hazardous surf conditions. The National Weather Service office in Melbourne warned on its website Friday of a “high risk” of rip currents all along the Atlantic coast, partly because of higher ocean swells caused by a low-pressure system near the Florida-Georgia state line, said meteorologist Megan Tollefsen.

“A lot of people are locals, they understand rip tides. They know what to do, what not to do,” Martin County Chief Deputy John Budensiek told WPTV. “They know where to get in the ocean and where not to. We get these vacationers that come in and, unfortunately, this ends poorly for them. There’s no way to get the message out to all of them.”

Hutchinson Island is about 55 miles (88 kilometers) north of West Palm Beach.


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