"The only thing we can do to prevent a drowning today is by closing the water," says Joe D'Agostino, Destin beach safety chief.
DESTIN — Okaloosa County beaches will start off Saturday morning with double red flags after lifeguards completed over 40 successful rescues Friday on Okaloosa Island and in Destin.
Destin Beach Safety Chief Joe D'Agostino was the first to close the Gulf of Mexico waters to swimmers on Friday afternoon because "people just would not listen" to lifeguards' warnings about rip currents and rough surf.
"The only thing we can do to prevent a drowning today is ... closing the water," D'Agostino said Friday.
D'Agostino said, however, that double red flags still didn't stop swimmers from ignoring multiple warnings from lifeguards, causing multi-person rescues throughout the afternoon.
"We had a group of seven people who continuously ignored our lifeguards' warnings, so we ended up having to rescue them from a rip current all at once," D'Agostino said. "We also rescued a group of 10 people who were trying to create a human chain to rescue another swimmer, and they all got caught in the rip."
Over on Okaloosa Island, Safety Divisions Chief Rich Huffnagle said his lifeguards rescued six people by 5 p.m. Friday.
Huffnagle followed D'Agostino's call and closed the water to swimmers at around 3 p.m. Friday.
"Hopefully this front clears out and we can get a break," Huffnagle said.
Okaloosa County lifeguards, however, weren't the only ones busy Friday.
Navarre Beach Fire Department Chief Danny Fureigh said his crew responded to two near drownings Friday. Both rescues were successful, he said, and the individuals were transported to local hospitals in stable condition.
In South Walton, Beach Director David Vaughan said there were 24 "swimmers in distress incidents" throughout the day, totaling over 30 people rescued.
Vaughan said the issue Friday was that the waters were the area's signature Emerald Green and appeared to be "clean and inviting."
South Walton made a decision to not close its waters, instead flying single red flags, because conditions were not as severe as Okaloosa County, Vaughan said.
None of the rescues as of 5 p.m. Friday resulted in death or serious injury.
Lifeguards will assess beach conditions Saturday morning to determine if the Gulf waters will open again for swimmers.