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Officials tout busy, but safe Fourth of July weekend

Erin Franczak
efranczak@nwfdailynews.com
Northwest Florida Daily News

As crowds of people packed the beaches of Okaloosa and Walton County for a fun day in the sun during the holiday weekend, deputies and rescue teams were on-hand to assist.

“We just want people to get home safely,” said Corey Dobridnia, public information officer for the Walton County Sheriff’s Office.

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During Fourth of July weekend, Dobridnia said there said there were no serious or life-threatening injuries and no major incidents in Walton County.

“It was a successful weekend for us,” she said.

The Walton County Sheriff’s Office arrested three individuals for driving under the influence.

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To prepare, Dobridnia said the Sheriff’s Office stayed visible on the main roads and used bike patrol deputies to interact with visitors one-on-one in the smaller communities.

South Walton Fire District Beach Director David Vaughan said there were no life-threatening water rescues this past weekend, but they did have four public assists.

The Destin and Okaloosa Island beaches had no water rescues, according to Joe D’Agostino, beach safety chief for the Destin Fire Control District and Chief Rich Huffnagle of the Beach Safety Division.

While the beaches of Destin saw no water rescues, the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office received 15 distressed swimmer calls, 12 of which were at Crab Island.

“Overall it was extremely busy for all of our shifts throughout the weekend, which is typical for any summer here,” according to an email from Michele Nicholson, spokesperson for the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.

Along with distressed swimmers, there were seven distressed boater calls, two boat crashes with injuries, and seven boating under the influence arrests, Nicholson said.

“It was extremely busy with calls for service, traffic crashes, disturbances, and the like, which is of course typical of a 4th of July here,” said Nicholson.

According to Jennifer Adams, the director of the tourist development department for Okaloosa County, occupance rates were about 80 percent.

“The businesses were busy,” she said. “The beaches were busy.”

While the numbers of people visiting for the weekend was high, she said it was not as crowded as last year.

“It is great to see people visiting us,” she said.