Dangerous rip currents off Old Orchard Beach on Monday led to five rescues involving 10 people who were in danger of drowning, town officials said.

Though no one was injured, the rescues underscore just how busy southern Maine beaches are as the summer tourist season peaks in the midst of a warm, sunny stretch of weather.

The incidents at Old Orchard Beach followed a drowning and a near-drowning over the weekend. Scarborough police Monday identified the man who drowned Saturday at Pine Point Beach as Scott Ducott, 56, of Scarborough. Ducott was brought back to shore by bystanders and the first officer to arrive on the scene performed CPR, but after 45 minutes was unable to revive him.

A man who was struggling off Hills Beach in Biddeford on Saturday and was rescued by bystanders remained in Maine Medical Center’s Intensive Care Unit on Monday. Jason Brawn, 46, of Westbrook was listed in critical condition Monday night. His swimming companion, Michael Maiewski, 32, of Eliot, was not injured. They were rescued by a Rhode Island man who went after them with his inflatable boat.

Keith Willett, Old Orchard Beach’s lifeguard captain, described Monday’s surf conditions as extremely dangerous. The 7-mile beach between Scarborough and Saco was posted as having dangerous rip currents, but he said that didn’t prevent people from going into the water.

Willett said that at this time of summer, the beach is crammed with hundreds, if not thousands, of beachgoers.

“We had some surf down here today, and some strong rips,” Willett said.

He said the most challenging rescue happened around 3 p.m., when an 8-year-old girl and her uncle, who were on boogie boards, got pulled offshore by a rip current. The boogie boards kept them afloat, but by the time lifeguards noticed them they were about 200 yards offshore.

It took four lifeguards using rescue torpedoes about 25 minutes to swim out to the stranded pair and bring them back to shore, Willett said.

“Once we got them to shore, they were shaken up, but otherwise they were fine,” said Willett, who believed they were from Canada because the girl could speak only French.

That turned out to be the fifth and final rescue of the day at Old Orchard Beach.

Willett said the first call for help came in around 11 a.m. off Ocean Park, where three swimmers needed help after getting pulled out to sea by strong currents.

Three other rescues occurred during the afternoon near The Pier and in front of The Brunswick, a restaurant and bar located off West Grand Avenue.

None of the swimmers needed to be hospitalized.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, rip currents are powerful, narrow channels of water moving away from shore. Attaining speeds of up to 8 feet per second, rip currents can move faster than an Olympic swimmer. Panicked swimmers often try to counter a rip current by swimming straight back to shore, but they are putting themselves at risk of drowning caused by fatigue.

If caught in a rip, NOAA recommends that swimmers not fight the current, and instead swim parallel to shore and back to land at an angle.


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