ANNA MARIA ISLAND, Florida -- An Anna Maria city commissioner is pushing for more lifeguards and rip current warning signs along all public beaches in his jurisdiction.
Gene Aubry told 10 News he will voice his concerns for the public beaches at a city meeting on Thursday.
His decision comes after the recent drowning of 14-year-old Dushay Nelson. Nelson drowned Saturday evening off Willow Ave. on Anna Maria Island. Rescue crews found his body Sunday morning near where he drowned.
Local deputies said he was pulled in by a current. They also said that area is notorious for rip currents, but there are no warning signs posted because that area is not a city park, it's a public beach under the city's jurisdiction.
Manatee County employs 11 full-time lifeguards and two part-time lifeguards, according to information outreach coordinator Nick Azzara. Its Marine Rescue Division costs $652,051. That money comes directly from property taxes.
Both Manatee Beach and Coquina Beach are parks under the county's jurisdiction. There are six to seven lifeguards on Coquina beach 365 days a year, and two to three lifeguards watching Manatee Beach. Back in April, another boy drowned from a rip current off Coquina Beach.
Many beachgoers who have stayed under the sun along the unguarded beaches of Anna Maria Island told 10 News they would like to see more warning signs and lifeguards out there.
"It is such a shame that it takes a child drowning for the local government to start to want to do something about it," said one beachgoer who was there during the search on the Fourthof July weekend.
"I prayed with his family," she added.
The only signs that explain what rip currents are and how to swim out of them are located on the county supervised beaches. Those are also the only ones with employed lifeguards.
"It would also be nice to see some flags that showed what the water conditions are like," said a tourist vacationing on the island from the Chicago area. "I do not know everything about the water conditions, but it would be nice to know if the water was more violent than usual."
Commissioner Aubry would like to see lifeguards along all the seven miles of the Anna Maria coastline as soon as possible. He said he might have to form a committee to organize the effort.