Last Sunday afternoon, Cozumel lifeguard Jorge Cauich noticed four women being swept into the ocean on San Martin beach. The group consisted of two 17-year-old girls from Cozumel, as well as a 28-year-old and 30-year-old, both from Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua. Cauich managed to save all four women as well as notify other lifeguards of the strong current in the region via radio. Whilst all four women are now safe, tourists are wondering why there was no warning of the dangerous current on the beach.
Cozumel’s resident lifeguard co-ordinator, Denis Mendez Lopez, has stated that a minimum of 20 lifeguards should be deployed on the island. This is a requirement of the Civil Protection Directorate of Quintana Roo, which has insisted that lifeguards work in teams of two or more, to ensure maximum protection for beachgoers. However, a lack of funding has meant that there are only 8 current lifeguards employed on Cozumel beaches, forcing them to work alone.
This makes the job of each lifeguard incredibly difficult, as they are responsible for looking after both people on the beach and people swimming in the ocean. In this particular case, Cauich was only able to rescue the 28- and 30-year-olds after first rescuing the 17-year-olds. Whilst he was fortunately strong enough to save all four, the addition of a second lifeguard would ensure a smoother and safer rescue.
Cauich expressed the difficulties he faced throughout the rescue mission to the Mexican news site, Grupo Sipse:
“It was very difficult because I was alone in my tower. Right now we are understaffed and that was the reason I was on my own”.
Cauich is an incredibly competent lifeguard, who has saved more than 20 lives in his six-year career. Despite his skill and passion for the job, the 4 women swept out to sea were incredibly lucky to be saved, as the current in the San Martin area of Cozumel is thought to be one of the deadliest in the region.
Changes are needed now more than ever, as the current in this area of the ocean has claimed lives before. In December 2017, two tourists (a man from Guadalajara, Mexico and a woman from the United States) drowned after being swept out to sea by the undertow. They died in the same area of the ocean that the four women were rescued from.
The previous lives claimed by the current in San Martin beach have sparked outrage in tourists who have visited the beach for years: On TripAdvisor, visitors to the beach have repeatedly questioned why authorities have not put up warning signs on the dangers of the beach, or the previous accidents that have happened there.
There is also confusion as to why there are not more lifeguards deployed to a beach with such dangerous potential.
There are hopes that Cozumel will now follow in the footsteps of other popular tourist destinations in Quintana Roo, to ensure this incident is not repeated: In April, several Cancun beaches increased the number of lifeguards on popular beaches after two tourists drowned on the same day. The increased patrols have made a positive impact, as there are now more lifeguards on hand to spot any potential dangers in the water.
To keep safe whilst swimming on beaches in Quintana Roo, tourists are reminded to observe the flag safety system and not enter the water in the presence of a red flag. Furthermore, tourists can increase their safety by only attending beaches when an active lifeguard is on duty, and by obeying all commands to stay as safe as possible.
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