Woman drowns while swimming with child at Huguenot Park

Woman pulled under by rip current

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 45-year-old woman drowned Sunday afternoon while swimming in the ocean with her family.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said Penny Smith was taken to the hospital after she was pulled from the surf at Huguenot Park. 

Police said Smith and her child were swimming when a rip current pulled the the woman under. Witnesses said the child called for help and Smith was pulled from the water by emergency personnel. She was taken to the hospital, but didn’t survive.

Smith is the sixth person who has drowned in the ocean in northeast Florida and southeast Georgia this year.

Area beaches were crowded Sunday with families flocking to the beach to cool off in the ocean. And while the waters appear inviting, the force of the waves can be deceiving.

“I got into the water about five times and the waves are pretty rough, like, they will knock you down, and you get back up and they will knock you back down again,” Kerriahna Allen said.

JSO said the family of three was visiting Huguenot Park when the rip current pulled the woman underneath the water. The man on shore jumped into save the woman, but he also began battling the current.

“When I went out there, you could kind of feel it tugging on your ankles, like trying to pull you back," Josias Wilkie said. "It was kind of like you had to fight your way back to the shore.”

Visitors at the park said they are playing it safe this weekend because of the strong currents.

“It was kind of like, there would be little soft waves, but then it will speed up again and then you will be in shock because you won’t see the next one coming,” Allen said.

“I think it’s just better if everyone stayed close instead of going further out,” Wilkie said.

The Sheriff’s Office said the man who tried to help save the woman is being treated for minor injuries at the hospital and that the child is OK.

The homicide team is with the family investigating the drowning more closely.