OFFICIALS have ticketed and even arrested rule-breaking beachgoers across the country who swim in dangerous waters against lifeguards’ warnings.
When beachgoers disobey red flags, they are not only putting their lives at risk but they may be punished by local officials.
A double red flag on the beach means that the water is too dangerous to swim in.
Last year, South Beach swimmers who went into Lake Michigan while red flags were up were fined over $25,000 in one day.
A South Haven city ordinance allowed a $1,000 fine to swimmers who went into the water while red fags were flying.
On one Wednesday in July 2022, at least 25 tickets were given out.
Fines for refusing to get out of the water in red flag conditions vary depending on location.
For example, a city ordinance approved in 2020 enacted a $500 fine for rule-breakers at Panama City Beach in Florida.
A 38-year-old man from Bay County, Florida, Garrison Creamer, was arrested in June after he refused to get out of the water at Panama City Beach while double red flags were up.
After almost 30 minutes of sheriff’s office deputies telling him to get out of the water, Creamer came back to land and tried to flee by running through a large crowd, according to a release from Bay County Sheriff’s Office obtained by The News Herald.
Creamer was quickly caught and taken into custody on the sand dunes after trying to fight off authorities.
The swimmer was charged with violation of double red flag ordinance, obstruction of justice, and resisting and battery on a law enforcement officer, the outlet reports.
Panama City Beach has the highest number of apparent drownings in the United States this year as seen in the NWS’s “Surf Zone Fatalities” database.
On Monday, a woman died at Panama City Beach, bringing the death toll to 13 at the beach this year.
The Bay County Sheriff’s Office warned the public about the hazardous water conditions at Panama City Beach on Monday when confirming the woman’s death.
“Deputies are currently pulling distressed swimmers out of Gulf waters,” the department said in a Facebook post. “Please stay out of the water.”
“Not only do swimmers place themselves in danger but also first responders that enter the water to save them, and well-meaning citizens who try to rescue distressed swimmers and become overwhelmed themselves,” the post continued.
One of the fatalities at Panama City Beach this year included former NFL quarterback Ryan Mallett who died after he and a group of friends were caught in a riptide.
All of the deaths were attributed to rip currents, which happen when water is “trapped between the beach and a sandbar or other underwater feature,” according to the National Weather Service.
“The water converges into a narrow, river-like channel moving away from the shore at high speed,” said the NWS.
Debbie Ingram, the spokeswoman for Panama City Beach, said that there aren’t enough lifeguards to patrol Panama City Beach.
“Hiring is a struggle,” she told NBC. “We are competing with other beach communities, some of whom offer higher wages. Many times we get college kids who go back to school.”