Two boys were rescued Tuesday evening in the waters off St. Simons Island after being swept up by strong rip currents at Massengale Park, three days after dangerous currents at this location claimed the lives of a man and a woman, said Kyle Brown of the Glynn County Fire Department’s Water Rescue Unit.
Brown and other members of the water rescue unit responded at 7:40 p.m. Tuesday to a report of two swimmers in distress at Massengale Park Beach, he said. A boy about 12 years old had already been assisted to the beach, but a 10-year-old boy was struggling against the currents about 75 yards offshore, Brown said.
Brown swam out to the boy and brought him safely to shore. The older boy was transported by ambulance to Southeast Georgia Health System’s Brunswick hospital for observation due to the amount of water he swallowed, Brown said.
“The boy was about 75 yards out and trying to swim, but he was going under,” Brown said. “I swam out and grabbed him and brought him back in. Our EMS crews looked him over, but he appeared to be OK. The older child made it to shore with some help, but he was taken to Brunswick hospital because he did ingest a little water.”
Strong rip currents at Massengale Park Beach claimed the lives of a 34-year-old Jesup woman and a 39-year-old Brunswick man Sunday evening after both went into the water to assist others, according to witnesses and public safety officials. Aleisha Rankin was pulled under after trying to assist a toddler who was caught in the rip currents. Gregory Grant then went into the water to assist. Witnesses said he brought the toddler back to shore, but was swept under the water when he went back to help Rankin and others.
Rankin was unresponsive when brought to shore Sunday evening and was later pronounced dead at the hospital. Grant’s body was recovered in the water at about 7:30 a.m. Monday.
A tropical low pressure weather system along Florida’s Gulf of Mexico appear to have created choppy waters and strengthened rip currents locally over the last few days, Brown said. Brown added that the trough that runs between the beach on St. Simons Island and a near-shore sandbar appears to be deeper than normal this spring at Massengale Park Beach, adding to the potential for water safety hazards. Brown said the trough may have been altered by Hurricane Irma, which brought damaging high winds and heavy flooding to the Golden Isles last September.
“When the tide comes in, it gets really, really deep there,” Brown said. “It seems that area around Massengale has gotten even deeper. I was in water there Sunday too, and it seemed extremely deep then.”
People caught in rip currents are advised to swim with the flow, parallel to shore, until its strength weakens. Swimming against the strong currents can exhaust even the strongest of swimmers, he said.
“It’s easier to swim with the current, along the shore, than to try to swim with and get back into shore,” Brown said.