ORLANDO, Fla. — Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue urged caution to anyone who went in the ocean on Labor Day as two women were found unconscious in the water and two other people were bitten by sharks, according to officials as rip currents will be a continued risk into Tuesday.
Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue officials say there were two people bitten by sharks on Monday, a 37-year-old Apopka woman who was swimming in waist-deep water at Ponce Inlet, and a man in his 30s who was surfing at the Ponce Inlet jetty.
Officials said they had to rescue 184 people from the ocean. They say two women — sisters in their 50s from Louisiana — were found floating in the water about 50 to 100 feet from each other near Beachway Avenue in New Smyrna Beach.
Officials say both women were rushed to the hospital — one of those women regaining a pulse on the way there — but they did not indicate if either of those women survived.
Rip currents were likely a factor in many of those rescues, something Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue officials were warning people about heading into the holiday weekend.
“We have been flying the red flag for the past few days. We are fully staffed — it’s all hands on deck — and we want people to know the most important and basic thing to remember is to swim in front of those staffed lifeguard towers,” said Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue Deputy Chief Tamra Malphurs.
Officials say there are about 40 to 50 lifeguards up and down the Volusia County coastline and those lifeguards stayed busy on Monday and dangerous rip current conditions expected again on Tuesday.
Malphurs says rip currents can be life-threatening because they pull swimmers into deeper water, and they can be hard to get out of once a swimmer gets caught up in one.
Rip currents are often the reason why people have to be rescued. Malphurs says lifeguards in Volusia County have rescued more than 2,200 people this year. She has advice for anyone who might find themselves in a rip current.
“Don’t panic, try to swim parallel to the shore — the rip current is not going to pull you under, it’s going to pull you into deeper water,” said Malphurs. “So don’t panic. Try to float if you can. But most importantly, if you’re in front of that lifeguard, a lot of times they’ll see you in a rip current before you even realize you’re in it.”
Malphurs says the most important thing for ocean swimmers to remember is to swim near a lifeguard. She urges anyone headed to the beach in Volusia County to download the Volusia Beaches app, which shows the locations of lifeguards on the beach.