PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Less than two years after her husband drowned while attempting to save a struggling swimmer during double-red flag conditions, Alisha Redmon said she was glad to see Beach officials finally take rip currents seriously.
Stacey Redmon, 48, of Vernon, was among the dozen people who drowned while swimming in the Gulf of Mexico off Panama City Beach in 2019.
Alisha Redmon’s efforts following her husband’s death ultimately sparked city officials to enact an ordinance in August 2019 that imposed the current $500 fine for beachgoers who refuse to get out of the water while double-red flags are flying.
“His death isn’t in vain, and like I tell my mom and (others): He’s not here, but he’s still saving lives,” Redmon said.
According to information provided by Panama City Beach officials, code enforcement officers have issued more than 200 citations for swimming under double-red flags since the ordinance was approved. Almost 100 of those have come already this year.
While Redmon said she was happy that PCB is taking a proactive approach at getting people out of the water during dangerous rip current conditions, she believes there is more that should be done.
Redmon said she is working to meet with state officials to convince them to adopt what she referred to as “Stacey’s Law.” It is made up of a list of penalties and precautions she said are crucial to beach safety, including child endangerment charges for parents who let their children swim under red or double-red flags, installing publicly accessible life-saving kits at every lifeguard stand and lengthening lifeguard duty times until dusk when rip currents are strong.
That is something Redmon said she asked local officials to consider during multiple city council meetings following her husband’s death.
Looking back on the day that ignited her passion to make a change, Redmon described the incident as something out of a “Stephen King movie.” She said her family came to PCB to meet up with friends from Tennessee, but mistakenly went to the wrong pier.
Not knowing their friends were waiting for them at the M.B. Miller County Pier, the Redmons decided to walk along the beach near the Russell-Fields pier to look for them.
It was there they noticed a young boy struggling in the water 30 to 40 feet from shore. Without thinking twice, Stacey Redmon ran to the water to help, along with the boy’s mother.
“I noticed Stacey gets to him, him and the mom get there, and I turn around to look for my friend to tell (them they) needed to go help Stacey,” Redmon said. “I turned back around and they were gone. All three people.”
She added that all three were later pulled from the water by a couple of surfers, one of whom later told Redmon that her husband made him rescue the boy before assisting him.
Already unconscious when he was pulled to shore, her husband was later pronounced dead at a local hospital. Redmon said his drowning occurred about 6:30 p.m., just 30 minutes after lifeguards had left for the day and while the area was under double-red flags.
To remember his heroic efforts, Stacey Redmon, who also was an Army veteran, was awarded the Carnegie Medal last December.
“It’s hard for me to say, but (I believe) we were meant to be there, for him to be there at that time, at that moment to save that boy,” she said. “He was that type of person. He would stop on the side of the road and help people. He would stop whatever he was doing to help anybody, whether he knew you or not. That was just how he was.”
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