SEACREST — A Facebook post that went viral over the weekend warning people about the dangers of rip currents in Walton County had many people believing that six people drowned last week, but beach safety officials say that’s not the case.

 

The Facebook post was written by a Georgia man who said he was visiting Seacrest Beach on County Road 30A last weekend. He wrote that he was standing knee-deep in the Gulf of Mexico at a sand bar Friday when he was swept out to sea in a rip current.

He said he was rescued by two good Samaritans, who pulled him to the beach right as a lifeguard arrived.

According to the post, the man said the lifeguard told him six people had drowned in the previous two days. The man who almost drowned lauded the men who saved him, calling them “heroes,” and warned people about the dangers of swimming in the Gulf.

The post had been shared more than 33,000 times as of Tuesday afternoon.

But David Vaughan, Walton County's beach safety director, said Tuesday morning that while he appreciated the post spreading the message about the dangers of rip currents and the importance of swimming safely, the part about six people drowning was “absolutely false.”

“We pulled a ton of people out of the water,” Vaughan said. “We had a very, very busy week. But six people did not die in Walton County.”

According to Vaughan, lifeguards oversaw 232,607 visitors on guarded beaches between May 27 and June 3. Of those, 3 1/2 days were double red flag days, meaning the water was closed to swimmers. The remaining days were single red flag days.

During that time, Vaughan said lifeguards made 226 public assists, which is when guards have to go in the water to help people get out, and 22 full-blown water rescues. He said there were no fatalities.

However, a 28-year-old man did die after he was pulled from the water near the 700 block of Scenic Gulf Drive in Miramar Beach on May 25. Vaughan said it was the first swimming fatality of the season in Walton County, and that the man was swimming in the evening after lifeguards had left the beach.

He said he did not know the victim’s name or where he was from.

Vaughan said he has fielded calls from national media outlets since the Facebook post about the supposed six fatalities went viral.

“The bottom line is that it was a very, very challenging week, and our lifeguards did an amazing job of keeping the word out and keeping people safe,” he said. “We appreciate the overall message of what this post is trying to convey.”