Coast Guard urges caution during dangerous surf conditions and riptides in Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Coast Guard advises to exercise caution during the holidays at beaches in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands due to dangerous riptides in the region.

Since Friday, the Coast Guard has responded to multiple search and rescue cases in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico involving swimmers, beachgoers, surfers and boaters who were swept out to sea or overcome by the dangerous surf and rip currents in the area.

Saturday, the Coast Guard responded to a search and rescue case in Peterborg Point in Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.  A Canadian citizen, 27, who reportedly was swimming with co-workers in a tidal pool, was overtaken by a wave that washed him into a rocky channel, where he was last seen being submerged by the seas.  Saint Thomas rescue authorities communicated that the man’s body was recovered Saturday afternoon, following an interagency search and rescue effort.

Coast Guard and U.S. Virgin Islands authorities also responded to a second case Saturday afternoon to search for an 18-year-old man who reportedly was boogie boarding in Annaly Bay, where he was overtaken by a wave and was last seen being pulled out to sea.   Following a two-day interagency search effort to find the man, Department of Planning and Natural Resources personnel in Saint Croix confirmed the finding of his remains.

“Our most heartfelt condolences go out to the families of the victims on the loss of their loved ones,” said Captain Robert Warren, Coast Guard Sector San Juan commander.   “Swimmers and the general public must exercise caution by staying away from shoreline rocks and jetties during periods of high surf, and be wary of undertow and riptides, even in shallow water.  Doing so could save your life, or the lives of your loved ones.”

The Coast Guard’s primary concern is the safety of persons engaged in water activities, especially during this holiday high travel period where thousands of visitors to the region may be unfamiliar with the hidden dangers of unmarked or open sea beaches.

The Coast Guard Rescue Sub-Center contact number to report a distress or rescue situation in Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands is 787-289-2041, while VHF Channel 16 is the international distress frequency to report maritime emergencies.


According to Tuesday’s National Weather Service Advisory for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands small crafts should exercise caution across the local waters due to winds up to 18 knots and seas up to five feet.  There is a moderate to high risk of rip currents today across the north facing coasts of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

A rip current is a powerful channel of water that flows quickly away from shore. They often occur at low spots or breaks in the sandbar. Any object or person caught in a rip current can be pulled out into deeper seas.

If you become caught in a rip current, do not panic. The way to escape a rip current is to swim parallel to the shore. Once you are away from the force of the rip current, begin to swim back to the beach. Do not attempt to swim directly against the current, as you can become easily exhausted, even if you are a strong swimmer.

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