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Family vacation ends with parents drowning in front of their 6 kids, Florida officers say

Mark Price, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

MIAMI — A Pennsylvania family’s Florida vacation came to a horrific end when both parents drowned while trapped in a rip current in the Atlantic Ocean, investigators say.

Two of their six children tried to save them, but were overwhelmed by the swift moving water, the Martin County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

The victims were identified as 51-year-old Brian Warter and 48-year-old Erica Wishard, the sheriff’s office said.

It happened around 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 20, off Hutchinson Island, which is about a 120-mile drive north from Miami.

“The man and woman ... along with their six mostly teenage children, started their Florida vacation day on the beach. While in the water, the couple and two of the teens got swept out by a rip current,” the sheriff’s office said.

“The kids were able to break (from) the current and attempted to help their parents, but it became too dangerous and they were forced to swim ashore.”

Martin County Ocean Rescue brought the couple to shore and began life-saving efforts. They were taken by ambulance to a hospital “where doctors gave it every last effort before declaring the couple deceased,” the sheriff’s office said.


“A Martin County Sheriff’s Crisis Intervention Team Deputy assisted the couple’s children throughout the day and evening as they await the arrival of other family members into Florida,” officials said.

The family was swimming off Stuart Beach, officials said.

What to know about rip currents

Rip currents are channels of swift moving water up to 80 feet wide and have been blamed for 11 drownings this year in U.S. waters through June 9, the National Weather Service reports.

“A rip current, sometimes incorrectly called a rip tide, is a localized current that flows away from the shoreline toward the ocean,” NOAA Ocean Service reports.

“Rip currents typically reach speeds of 1 to 2 feet per second. However, some rip currents have been measured at 8 feet per second — faster than any Olympic swimmer ever recorded. ... A person caught in a rip can be swept away from shore very quickly.”

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