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Drownings keep Apollo Beach preserve closed while county makes it safer

Three people became trapped in a rip current off a beach already posted with “No swimming” signs.
A new observation tower is one of the attractions at the Apollo Beach Nature Preserve. The bayfront preserve remains closed so Hillsborough County can take safety measures in response to three drownings there Friday.
A new observation tower is one of the attractions at the Apollo Beach Nature Preserve. The bayfront preserve remains closed so Hillsborough County can take safety measures in response to three drownings there Friday. [ Hillsborough County ]
Published Jun. 15
Updated Jun. 15

APOLLO BEACH — After three people drowned in a rip current Friday, Hillsborough County plans to keep the Apollo Beach Nature Preserve closed so it can steps to make it safer.

New warning signs will be ready later this week and the county will send staff to patrol the area for the next few weeks, reminding people no swimming is allowed there, said Forest Turbiville, director of Hillsborough County’s Conservation and Environmental Lands Management department.

Related: Body found in Apollo Beach believed to be good Samaritan who tried to save father and son

Currently, the county has no evidence suggesting Apollo Beach is at unique risk for rip currents, Turbiville said. No-swimming signs already are in place because of risks from a nearby boating channel and from rip rap installed to prevent erosion.

Still, in response to the drownings, the county will take a new look at whether the area is susceptible to dangerous currents, he said.

Janosh Purackal, 37, and his 3-year-old son, Daniel Purackal, got caught in a rip current off while in the water off the preserve’s beach on Friday. The father’s body was recovered soon after and the boy was taken to a hospital, where he died.

Kristoff Murray, a 27-year-old Tampa man, jumped in to rescue them but became caught himself. His body was recovered Monday on a spoil island northwest of the beach.

Here some tips for dealing with rip or longshore currents:

• Don’t fight it; that increases your risk of drowning. Try to stay calm.

• Swim parallel to shore or float away from shore until you feel the current slack. Then swim on an angled line toward the beach.

• Call 911 if someone is in trouble, then try to throw the person a flotation device.

• Swim near a lifeguard. If no lifeguard is on duty, think twice about entering the water on a rough day.

• Be wary of water that leaves a foamy trail out to sea. You may also spot a rip current as it will often be a different color from the water around it.