Man, 20, drowns in rough SJC surf

Published On: Aug 06 2014 12:19:47 PM EDT
Updated On: Aug 05 2014 11:10:00 PM EDT

They're known as one of the ocean's greatest dangers: Rip currents. They are the leading cause of lifeguard rescues at beaches and are responsible for an average of 46 drowning deaths each year in the U.S. Lifeguards say a young man became another statistic, while swimming at Mickler's Beach this afternoon. Channel 4's Adrienne Moore spoke with beachgoers about the drowning and what we can all learn from this tragedy.

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. -

A 20-year-old man pulled under the surf by a rip current at Mickler's Landing in Ponte Vedra Beach on Tuesday drowned.

Deputies said Thai Pham, a United Kingdom citizen visiting relatives in Jacksonville, was swimming 100 yards off shore when he suddenly started to struggle and his head went under water.

Deputies said Pham was swimming at about 2:45 p.m. in front of a lifeguard tower and appeared to get caught in a rip current and began to struggle about 50 yards from the beach.

"It was very difficult, very dangerous conditions out there," said St. Johns County Fire Department Capt. Andrew O'Quinn. "The lifeguard was able to get to him. At the time though, he did become somewhat unresponsive, he did go underwater. The lifeguard immediately dove under and got him and was able to pull him back to shore and immediately started CPR on him because he was unresponsive."

Pham was taken to Baptist Medical Center Beaches, where he died.

Lifeguards are warning people to be safe, but even with red flags flying at the beach, swimmers are taking to the water.

"Anytime a human life is taken, it makes you think," said surfer Stephen Roberts. "I've been sucked out pretty far, 300-400 yards off the coast and that was years ago during a hurricane. It's pretty scary."

Emily Williams told News4Jax her boyfriend was drying off in the sand when the lifeguards pulled the man to shore.

"He said he actually saw him and that his lips were pretty blue, and it wasn't good," said Williams.

Lifeguards at Mickler's Landing told News4Jax they will continue to be under a red flag warning throughout Wednesday and remind swimmers to know their limits in the water.