3 'Distressed Swimmers' Die in Hospital After 2-Hour Rescue in Panama City Beach: 'Such a Tragedy'

The identities of the young men, who were visiting Florida from Alabama, have not yet been revealed

<p>Getty</p> The Gulf of Mexico at Panama City Beach


The Gulf of Mexico at Panama City Beach

Three men have died while swimming in the Gulf of Mexico.

The swimmers — who were visiting Panama City Beach, Florida, from Alabama — became "distressed" in the water on the evening of Friday, June 21, according to a news release from the Bay County Sheriff's Office.

The sheriff’s office received a call around 8:11 p.m. local time reporting three swimmers in the Gulf behind Watercress Condominiums, a local condo building. One swimmer was located quickly and received medical care, while rescue efforts to save the other two continued.

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In an update to its original post, which was provided without a timestamp, the sheriff’s office said another swimmer had been located, pulled from the water and administered medical care.

In another update — also without a timestamp — authorities said the third distressed swimmer had been located, and revealed that one of the others had died. The update also said that the “young men” had arrived in Panama City Beach from Alabama on Friday afternoon and “soon after went swimming.” 

In a final update, the sheriff’s office announced that all three swimmers died at local hospitals.

"It is with profound sadness that we announce all three young men that entered the water around 8 p.m. today and became distressed have passed away," Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with their families.”

"I want to thank Bay County Emergency Services, the FWC and the Coast Guard for their help in the rescue efforts,” Ford added.

The Bay County Sheriff's Office did not release the identities of the three swimmers and did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

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In an additional statement shared on Saturday, June 22, Ford called the swimmers' deaths a “tragedy.”

"I have such a heavy heart this morning about the loss of three young visitors to our community,” he wrote. “[I’m] praying for their family and ask that you do the same. It is such a tragedy. I witnessed so many people, including visitors to our community, come together last night on the beach to desperately search for them.”

Ford continued, “The acts of courage by first responders were amazing. Many of our rescue swimmers with the [Sheriff’s] Office, Bay County Emergency Services and Panama City Beach went into the dark and dangerous waters for over two hours to attempt to rescue and search for the young men.”

“I worry about the emotional toll that these situations take on first responders as I know I’m struggling with it as well,” he concluded. “They have my utmost respect, as I know they are suiting up again today to keep our citizens and visitors safe."

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