Fla. officer leaps into action to rescue 2 swimmers caught in rip currents

A bystander said she saw the officer sprint out of his cruiser, rip off his vest and dive into the water to rescue two people

By Irene Wright
The Charlotte Observer

FLAGLER BEACH, Fla. — Going for a swim isn’t in the regular job description for police officers.

That is until Dylan Coffman got a call for two swimmers caught in a dangerous rip current off Flagler Beach in Florida.

Brooke Qualls was in the beach access parking lot when she saw a police cruiser pull up, she said in a Sept. 19 Facebook post.

Inside the cruiser was Officer Coffman, she said.

“Literally watched him SPRINT out of his police car, ripped off his vest, and dove into the water and save not one, but 2 people who were extremely, so far back in the water, stuck in NASTY rip currents,” Qualls wrote in the post.

Coffman, having dropped his gear, grabbed a rescue buoy and leaped over the beach fence in a photo captured by Qualls.

Coffman swam into the surf and helped bring two swimmers back to shore, according to a Facebook post from the Flagler Beach Police Department.

“‘Protecting & Serving’ comes in many different ways,” the department said.

Both swimmers were uninjured, according to the post.

“Saw one of the men’s head go under water multiple times for a concerning amount of time, it was extremely terrifying. GREAT job getting them back,” Qualls said of Coffman’s rescue.

Strong waves and deadly rip currents have hammered the area for days after Hurricane Lee moved north in the Atlantic, McClatchy News reported.

On Sept. 12, a 15-year-old boy from Georgia drowned off Fernandina Beach, about 100 miles north of Flagler Beach, after being swept away in a rip current.

“It’s scary how many times these guys have to run out and save people from those crazy rip currents! So dangerous,” Coffman’s wife, Carlie Coffman, said in the comments on Qualls’ post. “This is just a glimpse at the effort he gives to his profession and the people of his community! Always so proud of him!”

Flagler Beach is about 75 miles south of Jacksonville.

What is a rip current?

Rip currents are “powerful, narrow channels of fast-moving water” that happen on the coasts of the U.S. and in the Great Lakes, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

About 100 people are killed by rip currents each year in the U.S., NOAA reported. Lifeguards rescue thousands of people from rip currents annually.

Experts say people can take steps to stay safe from rip currents, including:

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