A 52-year-old husband drowned at St. Andrews State Park in Panama City, Florida, as he attempted to rescue two swimmers who had been swept into the Gulf of Mexico by a severe rip current. Although he successfully rescued one swimmer, he drowned during an attempted rescue of the second. There was no lifeguard on duty. A suit was brought against the State of Florida Department of Environmental Health Protection by Mark H. Perenich, alleging that the state had failed to provide beachgoers with adequate warnings about the dangerous rip currents. After numerous depositions and court hearings, the case was eventually settled.
Similarly, a teenage girl drowned at Panama City Beach after she and three friends, who were walking in thigh-deep water, were swept into the Gulf of Mexico by strong rip currents. Like the other drowning event, there was no life guard on duty. Mark H. Perenich filed another wrongful death lawsuit in Walton County on behalf of the girl’s parents. Mr. Perenich retained “Dr. Beach,” a nationally renowned expert from South Florida, who documented how rip currents develop and strengthen, and how they were especially prevalent to the Panhandle area because of the deep slope of the continental shelf. After the case was settled, the parents allocated the proceeds to a non-profit foundation designed to bring attention to the dangers of rip currents in the hopes of preventing future tragedies.