Orange Beach Drowning Marks First of the Season

Gulf Shores public beach
Baldwin County beaches are packed early in the season leading to more water rescues for lifeguards.

The beauty and the thrill of a day at the beach changed forever Tuesday for one family vacationing in Orange Beach. “We did get a call,” says beach safety director Melvin Shepard. “When we got there things didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to and it did wind up in a fatality for us.”

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Caught in a rip current, the Texas man was 200 yards out when lifeguards were able to get to him. “Once they were hit by waves, the waves help push you out along with the rip currents. Once he was out over his head, he had been struggling and just couldn’t maintain.”

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It was one of nine rescues for Orange Beach lifeguards. Just down the coast, Gulf Shores lifeguards were almost as busy according to Scott Smothers. “They would be in about knee-deep water. We had the high surf. The surf would knock ’em over and the back rush of the waves would take ’em out. Once they had gotten where they couldn’t touch, that’s when the rip current took ’em out.”

Six rescues in Gulf Shores in less than 24 hours.


With more and more tourists discovering this part of the gulf coast, lifeguards in both coastal communities are busier than ever. “We are already up to about 32 for the summer where in the past we might have 32 rescues in a season,” says Shepard, and the season is just beginning.

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