JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – Lifeguards patrolling the beaches Monday said the weather kept away the traditionally huge Memorial Day crowds, but, even with fewer visitors, children still went missing.
They said that, when a child wanders off, it can cause quite a scare for parents.
Jacksonville Beach lifeguards are always willing to help find children, but they’re asking parents to be attentive, because rescuers spend a lot of time and resources looking for missing children.
“We really want to remind families and beachgoers, if they come to the beach with kids, to introduce the kids to the lifeguard, tell the kids the lifeguard is here for them, then to remind the kids that the lifeguards are their friends,” said Lt. Max Ervanian, with Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue. “They are there to help you when you do get into a dangerous situation.”
As of 4:50 p.m. Monday, Jacksonville Beach rescuers had responded 26 calls over the weekend, and most were for missing children. All the children were reunited with their parents. News4Jax was told several of the calls were medical, but nothing serious.
“We want to remind parents and the families that, if they do lose their kids, to immediately go to a lifeguard. If the lifeguard is not present, to call 911 immediately,” Ervanian said.
Rescuers said it can be easy for children to become lost and disoriented at the beach because the sand, water and beach chairs can all look the same. They said that's why it's important to never lose sight of children, particularly in rough conditions.
“I tell them to stay close, stranger danger and, with the water, you don’t want to get washed away, so they get the concept,” Courtney Bellamy said, adding that her children never leave her side. “If they want to get in the water, I get in the water. If they want to sit on the sand, I sit in the sand. So I just stay near them all the time.”
Lifeguards said it’s especially important to be careful this week because there are big waves, longshore currents and rip currents. They’re recommending that people stay out of the water until conditions improve.
Rescuers pulled a man from a rip current near the Jacksonville Beach pier on Monday.