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Lifeguard policy may get new look

In the waters off Fort Island Beach on Monday afternoon, everyone _ Citrus tourists and residents, families and sunbathers, retirees and those who stopped by the beach after work _ joined the search for 10-year-old Elijah Jordan.

Missing from the five- or 10-minute search was a Citrus County lifeguard.

Although lifeguards have been on duty at the county's Bicentennial Pool in Crystal River since last week, they will not be at Fort Island Beach until late next month.

On Monday, lifeguards were supervising water wellness classes at the pool from 5:30 to 6:15 p.m. Jordan, pronounced dead at 6:14 p.m. at Seven Rivers Community Hospital, was reported missing shortly before 5 p.m.

Bicentennial Pool opened April 20, but the county does not staff Fort Island Beach with lifeguards until the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. Lifeguards are on duty from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day of the summer until Labor Day, said Karen Barnett, county parks and recreation director.

Barnett said the County Commission has considered changing the lifeguard-on-duty dates, which now basically correspond with when children are out of school.

The county hires about 30 part- or full-time lifeguards seasonally, Barnett said.

"There's been some general discussion over the years about the lifeguard situation, but the policy has remained," she said.

That policy might get a second look after Monday's tragedy.

"That's going to be a policy decision that's going to have to be made at the County Commission level," Barnett said. "It will generate discussion on the issue, and I'm sure we will revisit the issue, but any change in the policy would have to be made by them."

Jordan, a Georgia boy visiting Citrus County with his family, was found by Frank Dowell, 41, while beachgoers combed the water for the boy.

Dowell found Jordan about 30 yards from shore in about 4 feet of water, Citrus sheriff's spokeswoman Gail Tierney said Tuesday.

As Dowell was making his way to shore with Jordan, Deputy Glenn Ryan ran into the surf and took the boy from Dowell's arms.

Ryan ran with Jordan to a picnic table on the beach and placed him on top. Volunteer firefighters arrived from Connell Heights, and together with the deputy, they performed CPR.

Paramedics arrived, continued the CPR and took Jordan to Seven Rivers Community Hospital.

Early Monday evening, Dowell and his family were still at the beach, asking about Jordan's condition. Dowell cursed the county's lifeguard policy.

"This is Circus County," he told a reporter. "You need me to spell that for you?"