A Florida sheriff expressed his frustrations with beachgoers ignoring warning signs about dangerous waters days before former NFL quarterback Ryan Mallett died in an apparent drowning.
Mallett drowned in the waters near Destin, Deltaplex News in Arkansas first reported Tuesday. Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford warned those going to the beach to be careful after the recent spate of drowning deaths, which he said put first responders at risk. Bay County is adjacent to Okaloosa County – where Destin is located – and both counties sit along the Gulf of Mexico.
“I’m beyond frustrated at the situation that we have with tragic and unnecessary deaths in the Gulf,” Ford wrote on Facebook on Sunday. “I have watched while deputies, firefighters and lifeguards have risked their lives to save strangers. I have seen strangers die trying to save their children and loved ones, including two fathers on (Father’s Day).
“These same heroes, who have risked it all to save others, have been cursed and given the finger, while trying to warn visitors of the life-threatening dangers. We have used the tools provided by the county commission to fine violators $500 for entering the water on double red flags. We don’t have the resources or time to cite every single person that enters the water but we do our absolute best to use it as a deterrent to entering the water. An arrest is only authorized upon a second offense unless the individual resists law enforcement.”
Ford also warned those traveling to the beach Tuesday.
“Use caution every time you go into the Gulf. Today is a bit rough, so be especially careful. We’ll be out on the sand, doing our best to keep you safe, visitors and residents alike,” he wrote.
According to the New York Post, Panama City Beach has seen seven drowning deaths in June alone, which made it the deadliest beach this year. According to USA Today, about 60 people have died from drowning in the U.S. this year.
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Rip currents are channelized currents of water that flow away from the shore at surf beaches. They typically form at breaks in sandbars and also near structures such as jetties and piers. The National Weather Service warns they can be dangerous, as fast-moving water can even the strongest swimmers away from shore.
Rip current deaths, including deaths from high surf and sneaker waves, have risen nationwide in recent years to a high of 113 in 2021, according to weather service statistics.
The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Tuesday that Mallett, 35, drowned in an incident that occurred around 2:12 p.m. ET.
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“A group of people in the water near the second sandbar had reportedly been struggling to make their way back to shore,” officials said.
Mallett went under, and lifeguards said he was not breathing when he was pulled out. He was taken to the hospital where he was later pronounced dead.
Mallett was a coach in White Hall, Arkansas.
“It is with great sadness that we share the loss of Coach Ryan Mallett,” the school district wrote on its website. “Coach Mallett was a beloved coach and educator. We ask that you remember his family, team, students, fellow coaches, and the White Hall School District staff in your prayers.”
The NFL released a statement on Mallett’s death.
“The NFL family is deeply saddened by the passing of Ryan Mallett. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones,” the NFL said in a statement as well.
The New England Patriots, who Mallett was drafted by in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft out of Arkansas, released a statement of their own.
“The New England Patriots are deeply saddened to learn of the sudden and unexpected passing of former quarterback Ryan Mallett,” the team wrote on Twitter with a picture of Mallett in a Patriots uniform. “Our thoughts are with the Mallett family, his former teammates and all who are mourning his loss.”
Fox News’ Scott Thompson contributed to this report.