A man and his 10-year-old daughter drowned Sunday after they got caught in a rip current while swimming on Pass-a-Grille, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office reported.
Sheriff’s officials identified the father as Michael Stephens, 42, and his daughter as Isabella Stephens, 10. The pair were at Pass-a-Grille Beach Sunday with Michael Stephens’ two other daughters — Trinity Stephens, 13, and Brittany Stephens, 20, and her boyfriend, Jessie Johnson, 20.
Michael, Isabella and Brittany Stephens and Jessie Johnson were in the water when they noticed an outgoing rip current strengthening, according to a news release from the sheriff’s office.
Johnson helped Brittany Stephens out of the water and returned to help Michael and Isabella Stephens. However, the father and daughter were too far from shore and the current had become too strong, sheriff’s officials said.
Trinity Stephens called 911 while Johnson went to help her family and passed the phone to a passerby. Pinellas deputies responded to the area of 200 First Ave. at about 6:43 p.m., sheriff’s officials said.
Just before 8 p.m. deputies with the sheriff’s office’s flight unit spotted Michael and Isabella Stephens about a half mile off the coast. The U.S. Coast Guard and St. Pete Beach Fire Rescue assisted deputies in retrieving the father and daughter.
The pair were taken to a local hospital where they were pronounced dead.
The sheriff’s office is continuing to investigate the incident.
Rip current information:
• If you are caught in a rip, don’t fight it. Swim parallel to shore or float away from shore until you feel the current slack. Then swim on an angled line toward the beach.
• Swim near a lifeguard. If no lifeguard is on duty, think twice about entering the water on a rough day if you’re not an experienced swimmer.
• Be wary of water that leaves a foamy trail out to sea. You can also sight a rip current because it will often be a different color from the other water around it.
• Call 911 if someone is in trouble, then try to throw the person a flotation device.