Dangerous surf prompts more worry as teen's body recovered from Brevard beach

Brevard County Ocean Rescue officials are stepping up safety warnings for spring-breakers after the body of an 18-year-old who went missing in the rough surf last week off Indialantic was found early Monday.

Ocean rescue officials are also growing increasingly concerned as crowds take advantage of good weather along Brevard's beaches while at the same time. rip currents continue to pose a high risk to swimmers.

The National Weather Service in Melbourne advises that there remains a high risk of life-threatening rip currents for all Brevard beaches and advise swimmers against getting into the surf.

The teen, identified as Benjamin Pierre Gilles of South Florida, was recovered from the waves around sunrise Monday morning along the shoreline of A1A to the south, days after the U.S. Coast Guard and the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office combed nearly 160 square miles in a search. The search was called off Sunday night.

Brevard Fire Rescue crews and lifeguards are pictured during the search for teen who went missing Friday in the rough surf off Indialantic.
Brevard Fire Rescue crews and lifeguards are pictured during the search for teen who went missing Friday in the rough surf off Indialantic.

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The latest apparent drowning victim marks the seventh person — including a New York soccer coach who struggled to save his children from the rough surf and a 17-year-old girl caught in powerful waves — to have died after being overpowered by rip currents along the county’s beaches and seemed to confirm officials' worst fears.

“We’ve seen a marked increase in beachgoers and we started our seasonal lifeguards a week early,” said Brevard County Ocean Rescue spokesman Don Walker, adding that the agency has worked to warn residents about beach conditions since last year.

“We are encouraging beachgoers to use our lifeguarded beaches. Those locations use the flag system warning visitors of the current hazards,” Walker said.

Image Volusia Ocean Rescue uses to illustrate what a beachgoer caught in a rip current can do to try to escape from it.
Image Volusia Ocean Rescue uses to illustrate what a beachgoer caught in a rip current can do to try to escape from it.

Walker added that spring-breakers are flocking to Brevard beaches in larger than usual numbers as concerns about the COVID pandemic continue to fade.

Gilles, according to friends and family members, was visiting Brevard with companions as part of a spring break getaway. The senior from Cypress Hill Springs near Fort Lauderdale was swimming off the beach near Wavecrest Avenue in Indialantic at about 1:30 p.m. Friday when he appeared to get caught in the waves and to be in distress.

Lifeguards quickly worked to locate the teen in the water. The sheriff’s office was called in, along with the U.S. Coast Guard.

For the last several weeks, Brevard Ocean Rescue officials and lifeguards have been guarding the county's beaches, stepping up efforts as thousands more visitors, including out-of-towners and students who may not be aware of the dangers of rip currents, pack parks and beaches.

Beachgoers on a weekday at Paradise Beach on A1A, Melbourne.
Beachgoers on a weekday at Paradise Beach on A1A, Melbourne.

Brevard County Fire Rescue issued tips before spring break, warning beachgoers to swim responsibly and to use caution before wading in the water. That included swimming at one of the five lifeguard stations, monitoring the warning flags for rip current information and not getting in the water alone even with favorable conditions. Lifeguard stations are staffed from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at Cocoa Beach Pier, Shepard Park, Lori Wilson Park, Minutemen Causeway in Cocoa Beach and Paradise Beach Park.

The Brevard County Sheriff's Office is conducting a death investigation into the case.

J.D. Gallop is a criminal justice/breaking news reporter at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Gallop at 321-917-4641 or jgallop@floridatoday.com. Twitter: @JDGallop.

This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Florida beach drowning: Teen's body found after going missing in ocean