Liberty vacationer witnesses Gulf Coast drowning, warns others to check beach conditions

LIBERTY, Mo. - Sandi Clark and her family were just hours into their first day of a week-long vacation to the Gulf Coast of Alabama on June 9 when a small boy became trapped in a riptide.

"He couldn't get back in," Clark said. "A group of men, including my son-in-law, who had a life-jacket on -- the other men did not -- went out to help."

Her son-in-law was able to bring the boy to shore.

"Then the other men had trouble getting back in," Clark said.

Among those struggling was father of two John Hogue of Overland Park, Kan.

"Mr. Hogue was the only one that did not make it back in," Clark said. "He was unconscious when they pulled him out of the water."

Hogue was one of five people who drowned last week along the Gulf Coast.

The greatest concern for Clark was that she had no idea the conditions were that bad.

"All of the public beaches were closed, and they wouldn't let anybody on the public beach, but since this was a private beach there were no flags. There was no lifeguard."

She later learned she could check conditions online and hopes all vacationers check before they take their family into water.

"People from the Midwest are not used to the ocean," Clark said. "Even if you think it looks rough, I don't think anybody is prepared for the riptides that come under your feet and just take you out."

The National Weather Service has a list of coastal cities and updates beach conditions daily.

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