3 caught in Florida Panhandle rip current die a day after couple drowns off state's Atlantic coast

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Three Alabama men who went for an evening swim shortly after arriving at a Florida Panhandle beach were caught in a rip current and died, authorities say. It was the latest in a rash of recent deaths in Florida waters after a Pennsylvania couple drowned off the state's southeast coast, authorities said

The young Alabama men had traveled to the Panama City Beach area Friday evening with a group of friends and had just checked into their rental and gone for a swim when they went into distress, the Bay County Sheriff's Office said in an updated Facebook post on Saturday evening.

“The three men were caught in a rip currently shortly after entering the water," the post said.

The sheriff's office had received the initial emergency call about the distressed swimmers shortly after 8 p.m., officials said. The U.S. Coast Guard and others began rescue efforts. The men were found separately and eventually pronounced dead at area hospitals, authorities said.

The sheriff's office identified the three as Birmingham, Alabama, residents Harold Denzel Hunter, 25, Jemonda Ray, 24, and Marius Richardson, 24. Earlier this week, single red flags had been posted at the beach, indicating high-hazard surf and rip current conditions.

On Thursday, a Pennsylvania couple visiting Florida with their six children drowned after they were caught in a rip current while swimming.

Brian Warter, 51, and 48-year-old Erica Wishard, and two of their mostly teenage children were caught in the current on Hutchinson Island, along Florida’s southeast coast, the Martin County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post. It added that the two children were able to break free of the current and tried to help their parents but were forced to swim ashore when conditions became too dangerous.

Martin County Ocean Rescue attempted life-saving measures and took the couple to a local hospital, where they were pronounced dead, according to the sheriff’s office.

The Associated Press