"Here we are, two families, two husbands, two fathers leaving behind two sets of children all because we didn't realize that were in danger playing here at the water's shore," said LaMotte in a "20/20" interview in 2005 at the location of the drowning.
Panhandle lifeguards say that Walton County and other Panhandle communities have made good strides to hire lifeguards and raise tourists' awareness since the "20/20" broadcast, though they remain concerned about the lack of lifeguards at dozens other public beaches across the state, including beaches at 38 state parks.
"This is our backyard and we need to protect it. We're inviting guests and friends and families to come see us here and enjoy it, and we have to keep an eye on them," said Bill Soltz, a certified lifeguard and USLA advisor in Pensacola. "You wouldn't have a town without a police force or a fire department to protect against those incidents, I don't see why you would have a beach with open water and not protect the people utilizing that."
Lifeguards insist that the safest option for inexperienced ocean swimmers is to swim at a beach with lifeguards. For beachgoers who find themselves caught in a rip current, they offer these potentially life-saving tips:
• Remain calm.
• Don't try to swim against the current.
• Try to swimming parallel to the shoreline to get out of the current.
• When out of the current, swim at an angle away from the current, towards the shore.
• If you are unable to swim out of the current, float or calmly tread water.