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First Drownings Off Saint Simons Since 2013, Rip Currents To Blame

Two people died Sunday when trying to rescue a woman and child at Saint Simons Island.
Two people died Sunday when trying to rescue a woman and child at Saint Simons Island.
Credit courtesy of Glynn County Recreation and Parks Department

Saint Simons Island saw its first beach drownings this week in five years. Two people died Sunday when trying to rescue a woman and child. Two other rescues happened at the same spot, at the popular Massengale Park on Tuesday.

County officials say that specific location has historically been a problem, because of a sandbar.

“A lot of people like to venture out to that sandbar, and it often becomes a treacherous journey back,” said Kathryn Downs, a public information officer with Glynn County.

She said the sandbar creates a trough where the tides come in quickly.

Experts said it might have to do with last year’s hurricane season.

Mark Risse, director of the University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, said incidents like these often happen in spring, after possible sand and tidal shifts during the winter and hurricane season. They don’t become apparent until swimmers return.

“It just comes with realizing that the coast is very dynamic and changes all the time and these rip currents can move as well,” he said.

Clark Alexander, a coastal geologist at the University of Georgia, said rip currents are a possibility “anywhere there’s a beach.”

The county has added more police and fire officials to the area until lifeguards go on duty Memorial Day for the summer. Matthew Kent, a Glynn County public information officer, said they are also “looking into” adding life rings and warning signage.

Seventeen people have been saved from drowning in Glynn County waters so far this year. Last year that number was 51.