'The difference between life and death': Beach safety lifeguards patrol East Pass, save lives

Beach Safety

After a series of drownings in the East Pass over the past few years, the Destin Fire Control District decided to place a roving lifeguard on a wave runner to patrol the area. Beach safety lifeguard Glen Kuehner is pictured in this Destin Log file photo.

Kathy Harrison | The Log
Published: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 at 09:07 AM.

Anytime you can see a direct return on an investment, it's an occasion to celebrate — especially when you are in the business of saving lives.

"We've extended our services to cover East Pass," Fire Chief Kevin Sasser told The Log. "The value of having a lifeguard there is immeasurable."

After three people drowned near the east jetty in East Pass over a period from 2011-2012, the Destin Fire Control District, city leaders in Destin, and representatives from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the United States Coast Guard held a series of meetings to explore what could be done in the area to keep swimmers safe.

The area near the finger jetty is a common snorkeling/diving location on the east jetty, but it's also known to create an eddy that some say is up to 50-feet deep.

At the time, Sasser told The Log that "somebody had to do something," so after meeting with the district's beach safety chief Joe D'Agostino and the board of fire commissioners, the fire district decided to place a lifeguard on a personal watercraft in the East Pass to patrol the area.

"It's very unique where you have a guard actually guarding a navigable waterway because people typically don't recreate in navigable waterways," Sasser said.

"It's just a dangerous situation," Fire Commission Chairman Tommy Green added.

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