Desperate search ends with 3 young tourists dead in likely drowning at Florida beach

Three young men from Alabama have died following a desperate search after they became “distressed” while swimming at a Florida Panhandle beach, authorities said Saturday morning.

The three swimmers went into waters of the Gulf of Mexico shortly after arriving in Panama City Beach Friday afternoon, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

Shortly after 8 p.m., sheriff’s deputies received reports of three swimmers having difficulties while swimming off the shore of Crescent Beach.

An hourslong rescue operation involving multiple agencies was eventually able to locate the three men. They were pulled from the water at different times and then sent to local hospitals for treatment.

On Saturday, Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford said in a statement shared on social media that all three men had died.

“I have such a heavy heart this morning about the loss of three young visitors to our community,” Ford wrote on Facebook. “I’m praying for their family and ask that you do the same. It is such a tragedy.”

According to the sheriff, first responders spent over two hours looking for the victims in the “dark and dangerous waters” of the Gulf of Mexico.

“I worry about the emotional toll that these situations take on first responders as I know I’m struggling with it as well,” he wrote.

Several people, including “visitors to our community,” also came together on the beach “to desperately search” for the three men, according to Ford.

The tragic incident comes just a day after a Pennsylvania couple drowned while vacationing with their six children on Hutchinson Island, on Florida’s southeast coast.

Brian Warter, 51, and Erica Wishard, 48, were tragically swept out by a rip current while attempting to save two of their kids from the water. They were rescued by Marin County authorities, but were pronounced dead at a local hospital.