Body of missing swimmer recovered on Tybee Island

ByWTOC Staff|October 18, 2020 at 6:17 PM EDT - Updated October 19 at 6:21 PM

TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WTOC) - The body of a missing swimmer was recovered on Tybee Island near 19th Street.

City officials say he was swimming with some friends when he disappeared.

The city released a statement Monday saying lifeguards were dispatched to the area around 3:30 p.m. Sunday. The call was to search for a swimmer in distress.

The red flags were flying on Tybee on Sunday. This is a sign for beachgoers to be extra cautious about going in the water because of the dangerous water conditions.

Tybee Island authorities say Tybee Fire, Beach Safety, police and DNR responded to the call about a swimmer who had gone missing.

City Manager Shawn Gillen says lifeguards were on duty when this happened. He says they had jet skis out in the water as well as lifeguards in the water looking during the nearly hour-long search.

City officials say the body was recovered about 100 yards offshore.

The victim was in his late 30s. His identity is being withheld at this time while his family is notified.

Gillen says this year there have been four drownings on the island. In 2019 there was one, and in 2018 there were three.

“The drownings that we’ve seen this year have happened here between the 19th and the pier. One of those was an individual who jumped off the pier, another was when people were swimming in the evening. This gentleman was between the 19th and 18th Street area. Generally, it’s a highly populated area during the busy weekends,” Gillen said.

Over the years, Gillen says the city has taken action to increase safety. He says with so many drownings happening this year in a centralized area, the city is back to the drawing board on what else they can do to limit these tragedies.

“It’s also a reminder of how dangerous the ocean is,” Tybee Island Mayor Shirley Sessions said.

In years past, Gillen says many of the drownings have happened on the sandbar. After this, the city put up warning signs and this year even began giving out fines for anyone caught on it.

These recent drownings have the city, again, looking at more ways to encourage safety on the beach.

“I’ve asked the city manager to get with the safety department, with fire and police, and give us some statistics on where drownings have occurred, what areas of the island, what time of day, what the conditions of the beach were,” Mayor Sessions said.

Lifeguards were on duty when the swimmer was reported missing. This is the first time lifeguards have stayed on the beach past the second week of September.

“We’re a full month beyond what we’ve ever had lifeguards on duty before. We have more firefighters than we’ve ever had before, and they patrol the beach as well. So, it’s something we’ve taken very seriously,” Gillen said.

City officials will be gathering up more data about each drowning to give the public a better idea of what to look out for. City Council is also looking at designating the area out of 19th Street as a no swim zone, or a board sport only zone or even just a fishing zone. None of these have been officially discussed just yet.

“We really, really try to find out ways that we can have a better experience, offer a better experience, to our visitors,” Mayor Sessions said.

Mayor Sessions says City Council will be having a discussion regarding the drownings at their council meeting this Thursday.

Copyright 2020 WTOC. All rights reserved.

Photo: Getty Images

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