Flagler Beach Police Chief Matt Doughney this afternoon said of Wednesday’s feared drowning of a man at the south end of town that “we are highly optimistic that that was a misunderstanding.”
Around the time FlaglerLive published an account of the overnight search and rescue for what had been described as a man in a white cap swimming far out at sea and disappearing around South 11th Street in Flagler Beach, a swimmer who had been swimming that exact spot at that exact time called Flagler Beach authorities, confounded: “He saw all the stuff today and said, ‘Oh my God, I feel terrible, I think they’re talking about me.'”
Doughney explained: “We were contacted this morning by a local that lives in Palm Coast that regularly goes out and swims out beyond the pier. He was out swimming yesterday in the time frame in which the people saw him.” He did have a white cap on, as described by two people who called 911 Wednesday afternoon to report the man’s disappearance.
And he had, in fact, briefly disappeared from view, but that was his intention.
As Doughney described it, the swimmer started at the pier, swam south against an extremely heavy northerly current, and when he got to 16th Street South, by the Pirate House, he turned around to head north. He often swims underwater and apparently had gone under for part of the return swim. “The current was so swift he got back a lot quicker than he’d expected,” the swimmer said.
“That’s easily a plausible explanation for. ‘I looked at somebody, I turned back, he wasn’t there,'” Doughney said. Conditions at the time were also less than ideal, visually, as a storm was gathering, the sky’s grays mixing with the sea’s.
“He said he feels horrible,” Doughney said. “He said retrospectively when he came out he should have told the lifeguard he was done swimming. But he was done and he went home.”
Doughney had been called this morning before FlaglerLive published its initial story but could not be reachged. He contacted FlaglerLive at 1:23 p.m. to relay the update. The earlier story is below.
Swimmer Feared Drowned As 18-Hour Search Off Flagler Beach Is Called Off
The Flagler Beach Fire Department and several other agencies suspended their search this morning for a swimmer who disappeared in the surf off South 11th Street Wednesday afternoon. The swimmer is feared to have drowned–what would be the third drowning in four weeks off the county’s shoreline.
“After continuous search efforts throughout the day and night, this morning at approximately 9:00 am, the Flagler Beach Fire Department was forced to make the difficult decision to call off the search for the missing swimmer,” the fire department announced on its Facebook page a short time ago.
The search had begun at 5 p.m. Wednesday after several people reported to authorities that they’d seen a swimmer “go under and not resurface,” according to the Flagler Beach Fire Department. A “male with a white cap” was how a caller to 911 described it. He had “looked like he was having a hard time,” according to the caller, in 911 notes.
The Flagler Beach marine unit’s jet skis were in the water within four minutes of the call. By then two more people had called 911 to report that the man had been “far out” in the sea, then seeing him “going under.” They said he was wearing blue trunks and a white cap.
Flagler County Fire Flight, the emergency helicopter, crisscrossed the area as rescue units using jet skis searched the water. The search had to be briefly suspended after 5:30 p.m. during a severe storm. It then resumed, with unites of the Coast Guard joining the effort. The Coast Guard launched its search around 8 p.m., then returned to their base shortly before 2 a.m. Shoreline patrols continued until 9 a.m.
In the end, several air, land, and marine units and agencies joined the Flagler Beach Fire Department and the Coast Guard out of Jacksonville, including Flagler County Fire Rescue and the Flagler Beach Police Department. A “be on the lookout” was issued to agencies north and south of Flagler. Coast Guard units from Jacksonville, including a cutter, searched the coastline overnight.
In mid-June, the body of an 18-year-old man washed up on shore at Varn Park, north of Beverly Beach. The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office earlier this week had still not released the man’s identity, saying the case was still under investigation. At the end of May, an 80-year-old man who’d just gone swimming was pulled from the water, unresponsive.