MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – According to the city of Myrtle Beach, the number of drownings this year was significantly lower than last summer.
In 2016, there were 20 distressed swimmer calls in Myrtle Beach and 13 drownings. Eight of those drownings happened before the 4th of July.
This year, there were 15 distressed swimmer calls. One person was pulled from the ocean back in July and died, but it is unclear if drowning was the cause of death.
The Myrtle Beach Fire Department and Lacks Beach Service agree that the reason the number of drownings was so much lower this year is because of teamwork and communication. Both departments also went through aquatic rescue training back in May, where they learned how to use jet skis to rescue distressed swimmers. Lacks and Myrtle Beach Fire also added more patrols on the beach this year and they think that was a huge factor in keeping swimmers safe.
"I know this year we had extra people on that we trained so we went from 20 to 30 people. We're looking to do another class in the next few months. As we continue to grow our program and work with the police department and beach services and work as a cohesive team I think that's just going to continue to make our beaches safer," said Myrtle Beach Fire Lt. Jonathan Evans.
The Myrtle Beach Fire Department wrapped up beach patrol for the season on Sunday. Lacks Beach Service will be out on the sand until October.
Both departments say they're going to start to reflect on this past summer and see what they can change for next year.
The WMBF Investigates team reviewed all beach-related calls for Myrtle Beach Police from Memorial Day to Labor Day for both 2016 and 2017 to see how often officers were called for possible or actual swimmers in distress and where those calls happened. Calls for swimmers that were simply deemed too far from the shore were excluded.
There were a total of 20 calls for a swimmer in distress in Myrtle Beach in 2016, and 18 such calls in 2017. Below is a map showing the dates, locations, and details on each of these calls - blue markers are 2016, and red markers are 2017. Click here to view the map full-screen.