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OCSO says yellow flags present at the time of tragic drowning of Ryan Mallett in Destin

Following the tragic drowning of former NFL quarterback Ryan Mallett on Tuesday, Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office investigators are continuing to gather information on the incident. According to Destin Beach Safety, they received a […]


Following the tragic drowning of former NFL quarterback Ryan Mallett on Tuesday, Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office investigators are continuing to gather information on the incident.

  • Investigators say that Mallett began struggling while attempting to swim to a second sandbar about 150 feet offshore of the beach near Gulf Shores Drive in Destin around 2:15 p.m.

According to Destin Beach Safety, they received a call for a swimmer in distress. A beach attendant called 911, reporting six individuals struggling to make it back to shore. Destin Beach Safety quickly arrived on scene, where they were informed that one of the swimmers had submerged and failed to resurface.

“Two lifeguards promptly entered the water to assist the swimmers and recover the submerged individual,” they wrote. “An additional lifeguard entered to help locate and rescue the submerged swimmer.”

In post on Facebook, the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office addressed what they referred to as “widespread media misinformation” surrounding the conditions of the Gulf of Mexico on the day of Mallett’s death. 

The OCSO and Destin Fire Control District reports that yellow beach safety flags were flying at the time and there were no indications of any “riptides”.

“It’s always difficult when we lose a tourist or a resident here,” said Sheriff Eric Aden in a video. “We have no indication of any dangerous conditions out there. The entire Okaloosa County, as well as Destin, were not under red flags or double red flags despite some of the misperceptions out there.”

  • “We were under a yellow flag, which is a just swim with caution,” he continued. “It just seems to be just a tragic accident and not something to do with the conditions of the surf or tides.”

Sheriff Eric Aden added that the entire agency and the community at large are saddened by the tragedy.

Stay alert to and obey the current safety flags

Even the strongest swimmer can get into trouble swimming in open water. Here are some tips from the Okaloosa Health Department for swimming at the beach: 

  • Double Red Flag: Very high hazard and water is closed to the public. 
  • Single Red Flag: High hazard with high surf and strong currents. 
  • Single Yellow Flag: Medium hazard with moderate surf and/or strong currents. 
  • Single Green Flag: Low hazard with calm conditions, but caution still advised. 
  • Single Purple Flag: Dangerous marine life. 

Stay alert to rip tides and strong currents. If you get caught in a rip tide or strong current, don’t fight it. Swim parallel to the shore until you have passed through it. Learn to recognize and watch for dangerous waves and signs of rip tides — darker, narrow gaps of water heading offshore between areas of breaking waves and whitewater. 

Don’t swim alone. Even if you are a good swimmer, you never know when you might need help.

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