Lifeguards Could Come to Hunting Island This Memorial Day - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

Lifeguards Could Come to Hunting Island This Memorial Day

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After losing lives to drownings at Hunting Island State Park, Hilton Head Island Attorney Russell Patterson's plan to install lifeguards on the beach is moving forward.

Patterson calls the beaches on Hunting Island unprotected, currently.

"It's a very dangerous beach, because of the topography and the currents," he says.

He presented his research and plans for putting nine lifeguards on duty to state legislators this week. As early as this summer, lifeguards could come to Hunting Island for 100 days from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

He cites the park there as one of the most popular state parks in South Carolina, even though three people drowned this past summer.

"The week after we left, there were three drownings, two 17 year olds and the father of one of the 17 year olds," Patterson says.

"Over the last four years, there have been six drownings on Hunting Island," he says.

He finds that unacceptable.

"I think, to most citizens in Beaufort County, that the park has got all this money and they're generating money off the residents and the tourism to come there, and they're not providing adequate swimming zones," Patterson says.

In his draft of plans, he cites the park revenue at $1,200,000 each year. He says the lifeguards would cost $135,000 of that revenue.

"One hundred and thirty five thousand dollars, to save a life, is a drop in the bucket," he says.

Without lifeguards, he interprets the message from the park system this way:"What that says is, 'we think it's a reasonable cost of doing business that we might lose two or three people a year, drowning.'"

He predicts the flag warning system would be the first choice of park officials, over lifeguards.

"Unless they've got some flag trained to save a little six year old girl and tell her to come back out of the water, a flag's not going to save anybody's life," he says.

Now he will take his plans to the next level next week, when he heads to Columbia to meet with park officials. If the meeting does not yield his desired results, he says there will still be other opportunities, like the governor's conference on tourism in February.


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