A Florida sheriff has expressed frustration with beachgoers who ignored warning signs of dangerous water days before former NFL quarterback Ryan Mallett apparently drowned.
Mallett drowned in the waters near Destin, Deltaplex News in Arkansas first reported Tuesday. Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford warned beach-goers to be careful after the recent spate of drowning deaths, which he said put lifeguards at risk. Bay County sits next to Okaloosa County, where Destin is located, and both counties lie along the Gulf of Mexico.
“I am beyond frustrated with the situation we have with tragic and unnecessary deaths in the Gulf,” Ford wrote on Facebook on Sunday. “I have seen how 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).
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«These same heroes, who have risked everything to save others, have been cursed and finger-pointed as they try to warn visitors of the dangers that threaten their lives. We have used the tools provided by the county commission to fine violators with $500 for entering». the water with double red flags. We don’t have the resources or time to cite everyone who enters the water, but we do our best to use it as a deterrent to entering the water. An arrest is only authorized after a second offense unless the individual resists law enforcement.»
Ford also warned those traveling to the beach on Tuesday.
“Be careful every time you enter the Gulf. It’s a bit hectic today, so be extra careful. We will be on the sand, doing everything we can to keep you safe, visitors and residents alike,” she wrote.
According to the New York Post, Panama City Beach has seen seven drowning deaths in June alone, making it the deadliest beach this year. According to USA Today, around 60 people have drowned in the US this year.
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Rip currents are channeled currents of water that move away from shore at surf beaches. They typically form at the breaks of shoals and also near structures such as jetties and piers. The National Weather Service warns that they can be dangerous, as the fast-moving water can push even the strongest swimmers away from shore.
Deaths from rip currents, including deaths from high surf and slipper waves, have risen across the country 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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«According to reports, a group of people in the water near the second shoal had been struggling to get back to shore,» authorities said.
Mallett sank and rescuers said he was not breathing when they pulled him out. He was taken to the hospital where he was later pronounced dead.
Mallett was a trainer 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 White Hall School District staff in his prayers.»
The NFL issued 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, by whom Mallett was drafted in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft out of Arkansas, released a statement of their own.
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«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 photo of Mallett in a Patriots uniform. «Our thoughts are with the Mallett family, his former teammates and everyone mourning the loss of him.»
Fox News’ Scott Thompson contributed to this report.