Man drowns in Cocoa Beach near site of earlier shark bite
COCOA BEACH — An Arizona man drowned amid rough surf and strong rip currents Sunday afternoon — in the same block where a shark had bitten a surfer hours earlier.
And in Cape Canaveral, a fast-acting father narrowly saved his 7-year-old son from drowning after he was caught in a rip current, Brevard County Ocean Rescue Assistant Chief Eisen Witcher said.
The Cocoa Beach drowning and shark bite occurred near Ocean Landings Resort and Racquet Club in the 900 block of North Atlantic Avenue.
Strong rip currents were generated by long-period swells from distant Hurricane Nadine, which churned Sunday as a Category 1 storm in the central Atlantic Ocean, the National Weather Service station in Melbourne reported.
The drowning victim was William J. Clifford, 66, of Tempe, Ariz. About 5:30 p.m., he was swimming with a friend when he was pulled offshore by the current, Cocoa Beach Police Sgt. Scott Rosenfeld said.
Cocoa Beach Fire/Rescue, police and beach rangers helped pull Clifford to shore and assist him on the sand, Rosenfeld said. Clifford was transported to Cape Canaveral Hospital, but he died a short time later.
“There was nothing suspicious, no medical condition. It just looks like the rip current got him, pulled him offshore and it was too much for him,” Rosenfeld said.
Earlier Sunday afternoon, a 52-year-old surfer was bitten by a shark near Ocean Landings.
At about 3 p.m., the man felt something tugging on his foot, Witcher said — and it was a shark biting him. The surfer was taken to Cape Canaveral Hospital for treatment.
County lifeguards made about 15 rescues Sunday, mostly in the Cocoa Beach area. Waves topped off at 4 to 5 feet, Witcher estimated.
The 7-year-old boy nearly drowned about 4:45 p.m. at the beach end of Tyler Avenue in Cape Canaveral. His father struggled in the surf during the rescue, but managed to pull the boy back to the beach.
Rip-current risk along the Space Coast should remain moderate to high through mid-week as Nadine’s ocean swells gradually subside, meteorologists predict.