POSTED: 9:22 pm EST January 18, 2008
UPDATED: 9:36 pm EST January 18, 2008
For one man, it's a personal, meaningful crusade to bring more lifeguards to unguarded beaches in Brevard County where 10 drowned last year.At the Cocoa Beach Pier, officials are among the first to use the adopt-a-guard plan, in which private money from the pier helps pay for a county-employed lifeguard on some weekends.For one man, it's one way to avoid what happened to him."It happened right over there," Brian Bobb of Indialantic said. He gave up his health to save a drowning man."The waves kept crashing over me," Bobb said.The swimmer he rescued survived, but Bobb is permanently disabled, jobless and dependent on the Brian Bobb Assistance Fund.Now he is working to put more lifeguards in a county where only 13 lifeguard towers, staffed half the year, cover 50 miles of beach.Ocean Rescue Chief Wyatt Werneth is the only full-time lifeguard."I need help," Werneth said.The movement to add lifeguards is gathering momentum.Government officials, public safety leaders, and even the head of Volusia County's full-time beach patrol force met in a town hall setting.The director of the Tourist Development Council was there, ruling out the use of hotel taxes for lifeguards."Do we need 180 more lifeguards? I don't think so," Rob Varley of the Tourist Development Council said.County commissioners, who control the lifeguard budget, were absent. Still, many were upbeat that the need is established, and a way will be found."We made progress," Bobb said.Officials will explore using parking revenue to fund lifeguards.Brevard County is due to publish a study within a few weeks that could show how many more lifeguards are needed, and where they'd do the most good.
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The above title caught my eye on October 28 issue of the Satellite Beach Orbiter published by Florida Today newspaper. I wish I could find an on-line article of this story, but it looks as if it was only in the print edition. The story starts off as a typical life saving from drowning story, but as I read on the story it got deeper. Like I said I wish I could put a link to an on-line copy of the story as Iâ€™m just paraphrasing here.
Brian Bobb who is 61 and lives in Satellite Beach saved 29 year old Jeremiah Chapman from drowning in the churned up surf from Tropical Storm Tammy. Chapman was out surfing and got in trouble. His leash snapped and was in a dangerous rip current with his friend John Grant. John made it to shore but Jeremiah didnâ€™t and was drowning.
Florida Today: â€œSo, the 61-year-old former surfer peeled off his shoes, grabbed a boogie board and paddled out into the water.â€
With the help from Brian Bobb, both washed up to the beach with paramedics all ready arrived to administer first aid. Jeremiah was rushed to the hospital to further save his life. However, the sad twist of this story, is that Brian Bobb, who has a pacemaker and is in ill-health himself suffered his third heart attack. Brian survived the heart attack and is quoted in the article, â€œI have four children and two grandchildren and a wife of 30 years that I thought about before I went in. But, I could not live knowing I had a chance to save him (and didnâ€™t).â€
A few weeks later Jeremiah and friends returned to personally thank Brian Bobb for saving his life. They awarded him with a Martin Dreadnought Guitar which was much appreciated by Bobb who is a musician.
A touching story indeed!
By Tammy Roberts
Oct. 3, 2005, was a life-changing day for Satellite Beach resident Brian Bobb.
Without warning that afternoon, Mr. Bobb, 63, would be forced to make a split decision that would later have a drastic affect on his health, finances and personal commitments.
"Looking back, I still don't regret my choice," Mr. Bobb said. "I would do it again if I had to."
The beginnings of a tropical storm hit the Space Coast earlier that week, causing waves 8 to 12 feet high.
Mr. Bobb was walking along Boardwalk Beach in Indialantic when he saw pointing and heard screams on the shoreline. Jeremiah Chapman, a 29-year-old surfer from Lakeland, was caught in the surf.
Without hesitation, Mr. Bobb kicked off his shoes and ran 150 yards down the beach where a friend of the victim handed him a body board.
"I knew I wasn't the best candidate to go out there and save this kid," said Mr. Bobb, who, at the time, had two heart attacks, prostate disease, a pacemaker and several broken bones in his medical history. "But I also knew I had no choice. No one else was going in there after him."
Mr. Bobb wrestled the surf for quite some time before he reached Mr. Chapman and eventually brought him to safety.
His feat, however, left him with a sever neck injuries, a stack of medical bills and a new opinion on the county's lifeguard situation.
"The last thing I want people to do is feel sorry for me," he said. "I just want people to know that this incident has left me in a very terrible place. Unfortunately, it's a situation that could have been prevented."
Since his injuries forced him to leave his job as a contractor, Mr. Bobb has devoted all of his free time to finding solutions to ensure his fate does not happen to others.
"I want to see them make changes, not excuses," he said.
Brevard County recorded 10 drownings in 2007. The common thread - most incidents occurred in unguarded areas of beach, many in the Cocoa Beach area.
"That is where our trouble spot is," said Mr. Bobb, pointing to Cocoa Beach on a map he designed. "Shouldn't this be obvious?"
One of Mr. Bobb's ideas is a Web site, showing a map of Brevard County. Beachgoers would see an "X" marking the areas where lifeguards would be stationed that day.
"People would then be able to plan around what they want - guarded or unguarded," he said. "The (map) clearly spells out what to expect before people get there, not when they arrive."
Mr. Bobb also encourages resorts and hotels to use this technology as advertising for tourists.
"Their slogan could read: 'Come to our beautiful beach this holiday, where you are protected every day,'" he said. "This will not offend anyone. If you want people at your beach, you will get them this way. It's plain and simple."
Another idea Mr. Bobb developed is to re-design the county's beach accesses so they are more accessible for rescue crews to assist in a drowning situation.
Using his contractor experience, Mr. Bobb designed a sketch of a beach access that includes an electronic gate with a ramp, rather than a permanent one, that would open during an emergency.
Mr. Bobb suggested each beach access has a lifeguard shed, containing emergency equipment that can be used by a bystander if necessary.
"On top of the shed would be a flashing light and siren," he said. "As soon as a person signals the siren, rescue crews would be notified and all gates would open for easier accessibility to the beach."
Also notified during an emergency signal, Mr. Bobb said, would be what he calls a Surf Rescue Team.
The team would be made up of local surfers who live close to the beach, each of who would undergo some form of rescue training program.
"Aside from lifeguards, our area's surfers would be the most qualified of all for shoreline rescues," he said. "They are fit, know the waters and I know of many who would be more than willing to do this."
Mr. Bobb suggests each surfer carry a pager for a certain period of time and be assigned a certain area of beach.
"It would just be another way to get some extra help out there," he said. "In these types of situations, every second counts."
Brevard County operates with two year-round lifeguards - a chief and his assistant - about 100 part-time guards, and 13 towers, spread throughout 72 miles of coastline, said Brevard County Ocean Rescue Chief Wyatt Werneth.
In comparison, Volusia County has 81 full-time, year-round lifeguards covering 46 miles of beach.
Indian River County, bordering Brevard to the south, staffs 13 full-time guards and four part-time guards, but only has five miles of beach.
Brevard County's lifeguard program is seasonal, and begins the last weekend in March and ends after the last weekend in October.
From then on, beachgoers are left to tackle the surf at their own risk.
But year-round, Chief Werneth divides his time between monitoring the county's beaches, leading lifeguard education seminars, heading the Safe Surfer program and promoting safety awareness tactics at local hotels and resorts.
The sheer number of drownings and rescues last year performed by Good Samaritans like Mr. Bobb prompted the county to look outside the area for solutions.
Mr. Bobb and many other beach safety advocates attended a forum hosted by members of the U.S. Lifesaving Association in January at the Holiday Inn Cocoa Beach Oceanfront Resort. The forum outlined a four-month study performed by the group, targeting Brevard and its surrounding areas.
It addressed areas of beach advertising to the area, which many people have seen as contradictory to the county's drowning problem.
"In general, I think, as one thing expands, another needs to follow," said Chief Werneth, during the forum. "I see more and more people visiting our beaches every year."
Those involved in the study said they were awaiting a report from Brevard County Fire Rescue on the lifeguard staffing issue in order to complete their study, which they anticipated would be finished by the end of February.
In the meantime, Mr. Bobb plans to present his ideas to the county commission and other organizations in the community, in hopes that they will provide some needed solutions.
"Without the support from my wife and children, I honestly don't know what my outcome would be," Mr. Bobb said. "My goal is to prevent this from happening to others. The clock is ticking. We need results now."
Wachovia Bank locations in Brevard County are accepting donations to the Brian Bobb Assistance Fund. Contact Brian Bobb at (321) 557-4501.
Contact Tammy Roberts at (321) 751-5968 or Roberts@hometownnewsol.com.