Hutchinson Island rip current drowns Pennsylvania couple vacationing in Florida


A Pennsylvania couple vacationing on the beach in Florida drowned Thursday after getting caught in a rip current, local authorities said.

On Thursday afternoon, a mother and father who had traveled to Florida's Hutchinson Island with their six children got caught in a rip current while swimming off of Stuart Beach, the Martin County Sheriff's Office said.

The man and woman were identified as Brian Warter, 51, and Erica Wishard, 48, the sheriff's office said. They leave behind the six siblings, who are mostly teenaged, according to the sheriff's office.

The couple's children and emergency responders tried to save the couple and administered CPR on shore and later on an ambulance that took them to Cleveland Clinic North, a local hospital in Stuart, Florida.

"Those life-saving efforts continued in the ambulance and at the hospital where doctors gave it every last effort before declaring the couple deceased," the Martin County Sheriff's Office said in a post on Facebook.

Florida's Hutchinson Island is a 24-mile-long barrier island beach off Florida's east coast, near the city of Port St. Lucie.

Beachgoers relax, swim and play at Bathtub Beach, on Monday, June 10, 2024, on Hutchinson Island in Martin County, Florida.
Beachgoers relax, swim and play at Bathtub Beach, on Monday, June 10, 2024, on Hutchinson Island in Martin County, Florida.

Rip current off Hutchinson Island trapped family

The mother and father got caught in the rip current along with two of their teenaged children who were also swimming, the sheriff's office said.

The two teenagers were able to break free from the rip current, but their parents were not, authorities said. The couple's two children tried to help their parents get out of the rip current, but when it became too dangerous to do so, "they were forced to swim ashore," the sheriff's office said.

The sheriff's office tried to help the six children throughout the afternoon and evening Thursday, as other family members from Pennsylvania traveled to Florida to be with them, authorities said.

Why are rip currents dangerous?

Ocean experts say rip currents are dangerous because they flow quickly, and flow away from the shoreline at a perpendicular or acute angle. This means that someone in a rip current won't be able to swim directly back to shore.

Rip currents can reach speeds of over 8 feet per second, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is faster than Olympic swimmers.

Rip current can be hard to spot and if wave activity is already more intense at a beach, the rip currents will be stronger too, NOAA says.

The ways to get out of a rip current are to try to swim parallel to the shoreline, as opposed to swimming back in the direction of the shore, NOAA warns. Or, a swimmer could try to let the rip current carry them farther out into the ocean, making sure to keep their head above water. This can also become dangerous if a rip current pushes someone hundreds of yards offshore before breaking, NOAA's website says.

"The most important thing to remember if you are ever caught in a rip current is not to panic," the administration cautions. "Continue to breathe, try to keep your head above water, and don’t exhaust yourself fighting against the force of the current."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Rip current at Florida's Stuart Beach drowns parents of 6