HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputies said three people drowned in the Apollo Beach Nature Preserve over the weekend.
Rajeev Philip traveled to the University of South Florida with one of the victims, Janosh Purackal. He said, “I just started crying because I was just starting to understand that yes he’s not really there and sharing that in person with my parents was a very emotional moment.”
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The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said Purackal was swept away by a strong current last Friday.
“He was incredibly smart, but probably the biggest feature is very loyal. Especially from a Christian point of view. He really loved his faith and was very committed to the church, ”said Philip.
Hillsborough County Sheriff officials said Purackal and his three-year-old son Daniel were both caught in the current. Another man, Kristoff Murray, entered to try to save them. Authorities say no one survived.
Austin Flannery with the National Weather Service in Tampa and said, “It breaks our hearts to hear that something as tragic as this is happening.”
Flannery says he’s doing everything he can to help people realize the dangers of reverse currents.
“Education is the best way to move forward to help everyone move forward,” said Flannery.
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Flannery says return currents are narrow streams of water that quickly move away from shore.
“They are very dangerous. The fastest return currents can pull you at a speed of five miles an hour, which is faster than an Olympic swimmer, ”said Flannery.
He says if you get caught in the current don’t try to fight or swim against him.
“The important thing to do is swim parallel to the shore. This is the most important thing you can do until you feel the return current is no longer pulling you out, ”Flannery said.
As the loved ones of a hero and two innocent family members mourn, Philip says he hopes this story can save the lives of other people.
“I guess it’s important that the awareness is there because at least there’s something in your head, you know, ‘I have to be careful,’ Philip said.
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The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office says the Apollo Beach Nature Preserve is a fairly safe area and such drowning has never happened there before.