Coast Guard warns swimmers to practice safety

Numerous drowning cases already this year

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A string of drowning cases in the last two weeks has the Coast Guard giving swimmers an extra warning to stay safe in the ocean this summer. 

There have been two drowning deaths in St. Augustine, one in Jacksonville and another in Fernandina in the last two weeks. 

The Coast Guard's warning stretches along the east coast beaches from Charleston, South Caroline to St. Augustine, Florida.  

Five of the seven missing swimmers were found deceased. The Coast Guard said these deaths have touched every portion of the 450 miles of coastline that the Coast Guardsmen aboard Air Station Savannah patrol.

"We've been seeing this big trend, and an increase lately, with people having problems, so we needed to get the word out," said Coast Guard Lt. Alex Drake.

Drowning cases in the news is surprising to local surfers who have spent a lot of time in the water already this season. 

"It doesn't seem worse than any other year," said surfer Brian Roberts. "I've been in the water many times here and only seen rip bad a couple times, maybe a few times."

The Coast Guard wants swimmers to remember some simple tips in the ocean this summer. They are reminding swimmers never to swim alone in the ocean. When swimmers are out in rough current, the Coast Guard says those swimmers should not fight the current. If caught in a rip current it is always best to swim parallel to the shore.

Lt. Drake also said swimmers should be sober when they head out to hit the waves. Alcohol is a major factor in drowning and can reduce body temperature and impair swimming ability. Both alcohol and drugs impair good judgment, which the Coast Guard said may cause people to take risks they otherwise shouldn't.

Drake also wants to remind less experienced swimmers not to float where they cannot swim. Often people drift while floating on a raft or floatation device and cannot get back to shore. In fact, the Coast Guard says no one should use a floatation device unless they are able to swim. Weak swimmers should consider wearing a life jacket while in the water.

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