In the blink of an eye, Huguenot Park’s beautiful waves turned deadly for 45-year-old Penny Guy-Smith on Sunday in Jacksonville, Florida. According to witnesses, she was seen waving her arms in the water.
"It’s tragic. You got to stay safe out here. It’s rip currents that are really bad. They can take you out at any time" swimmer Deon Lewis said.
By the time lifeguards and rescue got there, she was lying face down on a boogie board with a child holding on to the edge.
Friends said Guy-Smith died trying to protect her son.
"As a mom, that’s the first thing you try to do is get your son out. It’s scary," Norma Polanco said.
WJAX spoke briefly with Guy-Smith’s daughter and childhood friend, but they did not want to go on camera. Guy-Smith grew up in the Black Hammock Island area, went to Andrew Jackson High School and is described as "the sweetest woman."
As beach season heats up and more people hit the water, lifeguards encourage everyone to stay alert.
"The current can get anyone, experienced or non-experienced. Great shape or not. Mother Nature controls what happens in the water," said Brian Stafford, supervisor for Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department Ocean Rescue.
Ocean Rescue said crews had to assist more than a dozen people at Huguenot this past weekend and render first aid four times.
The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department said the death is still under investigation and the official cause of death has not been released.
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