"My major advice is [to] know your swimming abilities and know the swimming abilities of your minor children," an official said.
At Pass-a-Grille Beach, on April 23, a man and his 10-year-old daughter tragically died after being sucked into a rip current, according to the sheriff's office. A statement from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office revealed that deputies were called to the area at 6:43 p.m. following reports of two people being swept offshore by a strong rip current, per PEOPLE.
Michael Stephens, 42, and his three daughters, who range in age from 10 to 20, were reportedly swimming in the Gulf of Mexico when they saw an outgoing current starting to strengthen. According to the sheriff's office, Jessie Johnson, 20, assisted his girlfriend Brittany Stephens, 20, in getting out of the water before going back to fetch Michael Stephens and 10-year-old Isabella Stephens. However, the two were too far from the beach and the current had grown stronger. 13-year-old Trinity Stephens was able to call 911 and transfer the call to another person on the beach who needed assistance.
HEARTBREAKING 💔 A father and his 10-year-old daughter drowned after getting caught up in a rip current Sunday evening at Pass-a-Grille Beach, according to the sheriff's office.— KENS 5 (@KENS5) April 24, 2023
Please keep this family in your thoughts. 🙏 https://t.co/EMoRse0b7H
A crew from the sheriff's office, Coast Guard, and St. Pete Fire Rescue retrieved the father and daughter from the sea shortly before 8 o'clock after being discovered by helicopter approximately a half-mile off the coast, according to the news release. After being transported to a local hospital, Michael and Isabella Stephens were eventually declared dead. An investigation into the drowning is still ongoing.
Jillian Constant was one of the deputies who responded. In an interview with WTSP, she claimed that there have been an increasing number of calls reporting drownings. "My major advice is [to] know your swimming abilities and know the swimming abilities of your minor children," Constant said. "Also pay attention to your weather and your rip current statements for that local area. Oftentimes, those things are very easily accessible by local weather apps."
Please please please don't underestimate the power of a rip current. Don't let your young kids in the water alone. A dad and his 11 y/o daughter drowned at Pass-a-Grille beach yesterday evening. It was a beautiful day. Now two more girls are without their sister and dad @BN9 💔— Angie Angers 📺 (@angie_angers) April 24, 2023
A rip current can overwhelm you, even if you are an expert swimmer. "Rip currents are extremely dangerous," Constant said. "You could be an expert swimmer and still have trouble getting out of a rip current."
"My biggest advice for if you do get trapped in a rip current is to not fight the rip current and to swim parallel with the shoreline either right or left to exit the rip current."
Father, 10-year-old daughter drown after getting caught in rip current at Pass-a-Grille Beach https://t.co/MzeICnyrgp #10news #news #wtsp pic.twitter.com/6eyQ6cNU0f— Brandon Thompson (@brandonpromo) April 24, 2023
There are several locations where rip currents are more frequent, like Pass-a-Grille. Constant shares advice in case one gets trapped in a riptide. "The biggest thing is you need to call 911," Constant said. "Somebody needs to call 911 and they need to give a good location and description of where the swimmer is, what direction they're being pulled out, and a good description of the swimmer of what they were last seen wearing."
"We really encourage people not to try to go in and be the hero and go after anybody that's already in the water. The last thing you want is unfortunately two victims in the water."
Cover Image Source: YouTube | 10 Tampa Bay