ANNA MARIA — An elderly brother and sister drowned, and two other family members were injured Thursday afternoon off Anna Maria Island after rip currents in the Gulf of Mexico reportedly pulled them underwater.
Josefina Pardo, 71, and Gerardo Hernandez, both visiting from the Tampa area, were pronounced dead at Blake Medical Center, according to a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office report. Hernandez’s age was unknown, the release said.
Pardo’s 78-year-old husband and 54-year-old son were in stable condition at Blake Medical Center later Thursday after they attempted to rescue the victims, according to Capt. Larry Leinhauser, with Manatee County Public Safety.
The names of Pardo’s husband and son were not released.
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“We were told all of them knew how to swim, but the currents can be strong out there,” said Dave Bristow, the sheriff’s spokesman.
The drownings occurred near the 1000 block of Sycamore Avenue, just off Gulf Drive and north of the Sandbar Restaurant. The county’s Emergency Communications department received a 911 call from the beach at 3:23 p.m., according to a spokesman.
Leinhauser said Pardo was floating on a raft, while her husband and Hernandez swam nearby. The three had drifted away from shore. Hernandez began struggling with a rip current, and the couple’s son, who was in the water but closer to shore, called out for help.
Pardo later fell off the raft while trying to help her brother. Her husband and son suffered extreme fatigue as they struggled to rescue the victims and had to be helped to shore, Leinhauser said.
The victims who died suffered cardiac arrest, he said.
“It’s always a risk with the currents out that way. They tried to fight it instead of going with it,” Leinhauser said.
Michael McIntosh, a 48-year-old former lifeguard visiting from Toronto, was spending the day with his wife and three sons nearby when he heard the call for help.
He said he helped pull two of the victims from the water after borrowing a small board to float on.
McIntosh, who has visited Anna Maria Island for the past three years, said the current was much stronger Wednesday than it was Thursday. But the fatalities point out the dangers of being out in the water for long periods, he said.
“When you’re over your head and get tired, game over,” McIntosh said.
Anna Maria City beaches have no lifeguards. A lifeguard came from Manatee Public Beach to help pull victims from the water, McIntosh said.
Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies, EMS units, Manatee County Marine Rescue, West Manatee Fire Rescue and Longboat Key Fire Rescue assisted in the effort, Leinhauser said.
Josefina Pardo and her husband had lived in Lutz, north of Tampa, for years, according to neighbor Sandra Roser, 62, a teacher.
Roser said she often would see the two of them walking up and down the street, getting some fresh air.
But Roser said she wouldn’t describe Pardo as an outdoors person. “I can’t even imagine Josefina going swimming,” she said.
The drownings came less than two weeks after Terry Cox, 50, drowned when he was apparently swept under by rip currents while wade-fishing off the southern shoreline off the Intracoastal Waterway. Cox’s body was found July 30 south of the Kingfish Boat Ramp off Anna Maria Island.
— The St. Petersburg Times contributed to this report.