Oceanfront lifeguards prepare for July 4 crowds

Posted at 6:49 PM, Jul 03, 2012

With Independence Day approaching, huge crowds will soon be hitting the beach.

Lifeguards are getting ready for a busy day tomorrow. And they want to make sure with so many people flocking to the beach - they don't have another tragedy like they did last Sunday, when a 10-year-old boy drowned.

That little boy was near a residential area on 61st Street when he struggled to get back to the beach from a sandbar.

Beach lifeguards say they want to make sure that never happens again - and that everyone who comes down to the beach tomorrow stays safe this July Fourth holiday.

The view is what brings Tisha Custis-Henderson and her family to Virginia Beach every year.

"It's such a pretty beach and the boardwalk is awesome, and people here are so friendly," she says.

Tisha says she also feels safe here - knowing that lifeguards are actively watching out for everyone.

"We've already just seen them rescue someone that was out on a sandbar."

Sandbars keep them busy - they're up and down the coast - and while they can be fun for people to play on, they're dangerous in certain conditions.

"The problem with those are, the further offshore you are, the further you are from safety," says Tom Gill, Virginia Beach Lifesaving Services.

Tom Gill says lifeguards have to keep a close eye on people around sandbars - the water depth can change quickly - as can the tide.

Gill says, "People out on sandbars maybe walk through waist deep water to get out there, now the tide`s coming in, now it`s chest to overhead, deep on the way back."

Gill says they watch out for those things - which is why it's crucial for people to be near lifeguards.

It's the one reason Aimie Astore was hesitant to bring her kids past the main resort area to the quieter beach at 49th Street for the first time.

This stretch of the beach is nearly 5 miles without lifeguard stands. In fact, from 42nd to 89th Streets, there`s only one lifeguard on ATV patrol.

"So we just have to be a lot more cautious about where the kids are at all times and where we are as far as water depth," Astore says.

And while her youngest is content to stay far away from the water - her older kids know the rules before they even step foot on the sand.

"Well, we have to stay to here when we get in the water, and before we play we put on sunblock."

And even with their parents - they have to stay close to shore.

"Honestly, I don't like to go in past my waist because I don't know either, things happen and you never know."

Tomorrow, there will be a few extra lifeguards and supervisors at the beach during the day. At night, they normally have fewers guards on patrol, but for the holiday they'll be doubling their staff from six in the evening until dusk.

Live in Virginia Beach, Erica Greenway, NewsChannel 3.