Isla Blanca Park lifeguards are stationed atop of watch towers most of the day throughout the summer, but despite up to 10,000 visitors on a busy weekend, there is only one beach patrol going up and down the beach and no lifeguard towers at Beach Access 5 on South Padre Island.
Luis Hernandez, 19, of Edinburg drowned Monday near the entrance of Beach Access 5, just past 5 p.m. A bystander was able to get to a woman swimming with Hernandez, but his body didn't resurface for 45 minutes.
Jammie Barnhill, Cameron County beach safety coordinator, said there was no lifeguard atop a watch tower near the entrance of Beach Access 5 when the drowning happened. However, she adds beach patrol arrived on scene within minutes.
She adds, lifeguard watch towers are not stationed past the entrance of Beach Access 5, because with so many cars driving onto the beach, it would be a safety hazard for lifeguards.
Park Rangers Asst. Chief Silverio Cisneros said people need to use common sense to avoid tragedies like these.
"It can happen in a blink of an eye, you know you TMre having fun out there and all of a sudden you get pulled in by the rip current," Cisneros said. Don TMt be drinking and swimming, or anything or that type. Anyone who is impaired in any way, should not be in the water. (People) need to swim in groups and make sure they know what they are doing."
Enrique Constante, a McAllen beachgoer visited Beach Access 5 with his wife, three kids and two nephews said he had not seen a lifeguard on top of the watchtower near the entrance for at least half a day. He said he takes his own precautions to stay safe.
"The times we've been here, we just try to stick to the shore, and we haven TMt had any problems, Constante said. I feel safe because I keep an eye out on my children and I keep them close by."
Barnhill said the lifeguard program has prevented many drownings, but with the sheer number of people it's impossible to get to everyone.
She said some of the most common problems on the Island that could prove deadly, are that people swim with clothes on, like jeans, weighing them down or some are intoxicated.
A toxicology report has been ordered to see if alcohol played a role in Hernandez TMs drowning.