ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (WALA) – A rip current in Orange Beach is responsible for claiming the life of a Montgomery police lieutenant, Rian Rider.
“Any time you deal with the loss of a law enforcement officer, certainly that does have an impact on the celebration of the Fourth of July,” Lt. Steve Brown with the Orange Beach Police Department said.
Thursday afternoon, Rider was with was swimming in at Cotton Bayou Beach with his family when officials got the distress call.
Rescue officials said the rip current took Rider about 80 feet into the open water. And they said he was submerged for nearly two minutes.
“It’s always tragic, no matter who’s involved. But when you find out that it’s a police officer, a brother officer and their family that’s been impacted, that does have an impact closer to home for us as well because we are law enforcement and we are community,” Brown said.
Rip currents can be difficult to detect, but can be distinguished by its foamy, choppy appearance, according to the National Weather Service.
“The challenge for us is to get people to understand, not only with the adults, but with the children, keep them safe when they’re in the Gulf when they’re swimming. 90 percent of the people never get below waist deep, but once you get hit with a rip current, it pulls you out,” Ken Grimes, city administrator for Orange Beach, said.
The National Weather Service also reminds people to never fight the current, but to swim parallel to shore after a rip current takes you out.
All public beaches along Gulf Shores and Orange Beach have a warning flag system. Thursday and Friday, the flags were flying yellow for “moderate risk” and officials stress that there is no risk free scenario in the Gulf.
“When you’re at the Gulf of Mexico anywhere, the beach flag system, yellow doesn’t mean ‘safe.’ Green doesn’t even mean ‘safe’ cause you’re in someone’s habitat,” Grimes said.
From all those wanting to take a dip in the Gulf this holiday weekend, do so, but be aware of the potential risk.