Related stories: Along the Coast: Boy presumed drowned while fishing at inlet with father 

Manalapan: Attempts fail to revive woman pulled out into the ocean

Lantana news brief: Lifeguards rescue two swimmers from rip current


On June 13, my morning walk was interrupted by the sound of emergency vehicle sirens and hovering helicopters.

This happens along the beach with some frequency: migrants smuggled ashore, boating accidents, medical emergencies and drownings.

This time it was the heartbreaking death of an 8-year-old who fell from a sea wall while fishing just before dawn at the Boynton Inlet.

The emergency response from multiple agencies was impressive. The first responders were dedicated and focused on their duty. Unfortunately, the result was tragic: A little boy who reportedly loved fishing with his father was pulled under by the inlet’s swift current.

It’s difficult to say if anything could have been done to prevent this tragedy. According to Palm Beach County Fire Rescue, an investigation is continuing.

There are no railings along the sea walls on the west side of the A1A bridge. I’m sure the lack of barrier is popular with the people fishing. But it’s notable, as I walk around the area, that there are no warning signs about the inlet’s swift currents and no life rings or other accessible flotation devices. The signs at the inlet are all about closing times and what to do with injured marine life.

And signs can only provide information, not safety.

And they can’t be everywhere.

At least six visitors to Florida have died after being caught in rip currents since May. Another of these deaths happened along Manalapan’s beach just north of the Boynton Inlet.

In this case a 56-year-old Boynton Beach woman was pulled offshore and drowned while swimming with her friends. It’s possible there have been other rip current fatalities in our area this summer. Unfortunately, social media are often the only way locals — and local news media — learn of the deaths. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, more than one-third of the 97 rip current and surf zone fatalities across the U.S. in 2023 happened during June and July. The agency cautions never to assume the ocean is safe, even if the weather is nice.

Those of us who live and swim here know the dangers and have learned what to do if caught in a rip current: Stay calm; call and wave for help; swim as best you can parallel to the shoreline until free of the current’s pull.

It sounds simple, but of course it’s not when you feel you’re being swept out to sea. Tip one is the most important: Stay calm.

With the state’s rapid population influx and increasingly popular tourist destinations, there will likely be more water-related deaths before the summer is over.

Learn to swim. Teach your children to swim. Our state, after all, is surrounded by more than 1,300 miles of coastline.

Stay safe.

— Mary Kate Leming, Executive Editor

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