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TRAGIC: 2 dead after getting caught in rip current off Stuart Beach, sheriff's office says

Swimmers pulled from water near 100 block of Northeast Tradewind Lane on Hutchinson Island
Lifeguards rescue two swimmers near the 00 block of Northeast Tradewind Lane on Stuart Beach on June 20, 2024.jpg
Posted at 2:10 PM, Jun 20, 2024

HUTCHINSON ISLAND, Fla. — The Martin County Sheriff's Office said two people died Thursday after they were pulled from the ocean off Stuart Beach on Hutchinson Island after getting caught in a rip current.

Cory Pippin with Martin County Fire Rescue said an emergency call came in at approximately 1:30 p.m. for missing swimmers near the 100 block of Northeast Tradewind Lane.

Pippin said witnesses saw swimmers struggling in a possible rip current.

Lifeguards pulled two unconscious people — Brian Warter, 51, and Erica Wishard, 48, — out of the water and began performing CPR.

The victims, both from Pennsylvania, were taken to Cleveland Clinic Martin North Hospital, where they later died, the sheriff's office said.

Two additional swimmers were thought to be in danger in the water, but they got out and were not hurt.

Martin County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy John Budensiek told WPTV that the couple got into the ocean — right into a rip current — and just couldn't break out of it.

The couple's children were the ones who called 911.

"One of the children of the deceased was trying to yell to them instructions of how to swim parallel to the shore, ... but they were in panic mode and unfortunately went under," Budensiek said. "A lot of people are locals, they understand rip tides. They know what to do, what not to do. They know where to get in the ocean and where not to. We get these vacationers that come in and unfortunately this ends poorly for them. There's no way to get the message out to all of them."

Budensiek said Ocean Rescue, Fire Rescue and hospital staff all worked to revive the couple for at least an hour before pronouncing them dead at the hospital.

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Double Red Flags Now Flying

Just before 3:30 p.m. Thursday, lifeguards started flying double red flags at Stuart Beach and Jensen Beach, meaning no one is allowed in the water.

Earlier on Thursday, Martin County Fire Rescue's Facebook page posted a rip current warning, saying there was rough surf. Red flags were up at Stuart Beach, Jensen Beach and Hobe Sound Beach.

"We suggest strong swimmers only because rip currents are expected," the post said.