At least 4 dead in last 10 days after swimming at Gulf beaches


Tragedies are on the rise for swimmers in the Gulf of Mexico. My heart and prayers are with the families who have lost a loved one. Please let your friends and relatives know about the risks to swimmers in the Gulf.

Potential Health Effects of Oil Spill, KRIV Channel 26 Houston (Fox), June 22, 2010:

Dr. Harish Seethamraju is a pulmonary specialist at Methodist Hospital in Houston.

Seethamraju says potential problems include wheezing and asthma, but that’s not all. “If they take a swim in these waters, the toxic chemicals can cause pneumonia and respiratory failure.” …

“We have never seen such enormous amounts of exposure.”

Pelham woman drowns in Orange Beach, along with young girl, Shelby County Reporter, July 3, 2010:

A Pelham woman and a 2-year-old girl drowned in Orange Beach, Ala., the evening of July 2, according to the Orange Beach Police Department.

Kembra Gordon, 47, of Pelham was pronounced dead at the scene, while the 2-year-old girl, who was not related to Gordon, was flown by Life Flight helicopter to Baptist Hospital in Pensacola, Fla.

Baldwin County Deputy Coroner Brian Pierce said the girl was pronounced dead at the hospital.

The drownings occurred in the Gulf of Mexico close to Alabama 180, Pierce said.

Police responded to the 26000 block of Perdido Beach Boulevard at about 5 p.m. after someone called to report a possible drowning.

When emergency personnel arrived at the scene, they discovered the two victims out of the water and unresponsive.

According to witnesses at the scene, the two victims were part of a group vacationing from the Birmingham area, and had taken a walk on the beach away from their group shortly before the drowning.

Members of the vacation group said they last saw the victims at about 3:30 p.m. July 2, and thought the two had returned to the group’s condominium or swimming pool.

Beach visitors told police they were pulling Gordon from the ocean when someone noticed the 2-year-old still in the water.

A male beach visitor then entered the ocean, located the juvenile victim and returned her to the shore.

Following the incident, the male beach visitor was transported to South Baldwin Regional Medical Center, treated for a back injury and released.

65-year-old drowns behind Hidden Dunes Resort (UPDATE), Walton Sun, June 28, 2010:

A 65-year-old man drowned Monday afternoon behind Hidden Dunes Resort.

Emergency personnel responded to a 1:20 p.m. call that bystanders were performing CPR on a man at the beach. The man’s identity and place of residence have not been released.

The South Walton Fire District units took the man to Sacred Heart Hospital in cardiac arrest, said Deputy Chief Sean Hughes in a media release.

“The incident is under investigation by the medical examiner’s office to determine the actual cause of death,” Hughes said.

The suspected drowning is the first in Walton County this season.

Walton County Beach Safety Director Gary Wise stressed the importance of paying attention to the posted beach flags. He said he flew red flags before the conditions met the criteria.

“The beach flags are flying for a reason. It wasn’t even a very strong current today. It was avery mild red flag day today … a borderline yellow day,” Wise said.

Area Records 2nd Drowning In 4 Days, WJGH Channel 7 Destin, June 28, 2010:

The First Judicial Circuit Medical Examiner is investigating the apparent drowning death of a 65-year-old man in the Gulf At Santa Rosa Beach in south Walton today.

Drowning victim ID’d; Battery dead in defibrillator, Destin Log, June 29, 2010:

The name of a man who died after being pulled out of the gulf unconscious Monday at Hidden Dunes beach access has been released.

John H. Hess, a 62-year-old visitor from Kentucky, was pronounced dead at the hospital at 2 p.m. on Monday, according to a Walton County Sheriff’s Office incident report. He was vacationing at Hidden Dunes with his wife and son.

Cindy Pike, a nurse practitioner from Alabama, was on the beach about 1:20 p.m. when she heard her sister yelling for help. She looked and saw two men pulling Hess out of the water.

She was one of three, including two doctors, to administer CPR until South Walton Fire District crews arrived on scene.

One of the doctors along with a beach vendor pulled Hess from the water, Pike said Tuesday. The vendor, 21-year-old Elliot Chlebowski, told the sheriff’s deputy that he thought he felt a faint pulse while rescuing the man, the report states.

Chlebowski said that he had been flagged down by a woman who told him a man needed help in the water. He went out and located Hess, who was floating face down.

“We started CPR immediately,” Pike said, adding that she wanted his family to know that medical personnel were with him immediately.

In addition to Pike, a doctor and a cardiologist took turns doing chest compressions, the report said. At one point, one of the doctors requested an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED), and the deputy ran up to Hidden Dunes but could not locate one.

Pike said a deputy on scene told her that the county had purchased a number of AEDs several years ago but had not purchased batteries for them so he did not have one.

“That could have been a lifesaving piece of equipment,” Pike said.

Walton County Sheriff’s Capt. Shepard Bruner confirmed that the beach patrol’s AED did have a dead battery.

Bruner said the Sheriff’s Office requested new batteries for its units several days prior, and received them on Monday. Most of the AEDs were turned in for new batteries Monday, but the one at the scene that day had not been.

Bruner said that the Sheriff’s Office inherited 30 AEDs from the South Walton Fire District and several of them had dead batteries. He said the AEDs are inspected monthly for dead batteries but don’t carry an expiration date.

“Ultimately we need to have the batteries in the AEDs whether they would be useful that day or not,” Bruner said.

Hess’ cause of death has not been determined, said South Walton Fire District Deputy Chief Sean Hughes. He said results from an autopsy could take a week.

Name of drowning victim released, Panama City News Herald, June 25, 2010:

Authorities have released more details of a drowning that took place in gulf waters off Panama City Beach Richard Allen Linn, 52, of Remlap, Ala., died Thursday despite rescuers’
attempts to revive him.

According to a Bay County Sheriff’s Office incident report released Friday, deputies were called to the beach between Beach Access 93 and 94 in the 22000 block of Front Beach Road about 4 p.m. Deputy David Higgins was first to arrive and was told by witnesses that they had last seen Linn about 100 yards off shore. Higgins entered the water and began swimming in the direction indicated by the witnesses.

Yellow flags were flying at the time, but Higgins noted that the undertow was strong, the report said.

He first located an unknown woman struggling in the water, the report said. She was apparently trying to help Linn and became distressed herself. Higgins brought her to shore safely and then swam back out to locate Linn.

Higgins found Linn floating face down in the water between the two sandbars. He brought Linn to shore and began CPR. EMS arrived shortly thereafter.

Linn was unresponsive, the report said. He was placed in the back of a BCSO vehicle and taken to the road, where he was loaded into an ambulance. He was transported to Bay Medical Center
and pronounced dead upon arrival.

Thursday afternoon, including the name of the victim.

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