ALEA stepping up road and water patrols and air assistance in Baldwin County for Memorial Day weekend

Published: May. 25, 2023 at 7:01 PM CDT
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ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (WALA) - With thousands of visitors expected to hit Alabama’s beaches and waterways this holiday weekend, the Alabama law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) is all hands-on-deck. The marine patrol division will be patrolling and assisting local agencies and their helicopter will once again be stationed at the beach for fast response to water rescues.

ALEA will once again assist with air-to-water rescues on Baldwin County beaches this Memorial...
ALEA will once again assist with air-to-water rescues on Baldwin County beaches this Memorial Day weekend(Hal Scheurich)

Memorial Day Weekend is a challenge for public safety officials in Baldwin County. From crowded roadways to the water and beaches, it takes a team effort to keep folks safe. State Troopers, Orange Beach and Gulf Shores Police and Fire along with lifeguards work together to do just that.

Marine Patrol will be on the lookout for unsafe boaters and ask that you be kind and considerate when on the water. It’s recommended you have a designated driver if there’s alcohol on board, but there are other dangers too.

“Believe it or not, statistics don’t point out that alcohol is the leading factor in boat crashes,” said Trooper, Lt. Ryan Bennett with AEA Marine Patrol. “Throughout last year, it was operator inexperience. It was also failing to maintain a proper lookout so make sure you set your boat up to where you don’t have the forward view blocked.”

While troopers and local police patrol the waterways, ALEA’s helicopter will be patrolling the skies over the beaches. Lifeguards from both Gulf Shores and Orange Beach will ride together and jump from the chopper to help swimmers in trouble. The program proved to be extremely successful last year, helping save several lives on Memorial Day weekend, starting in Gulf Shores.

“It happened around six o’clock…maybe just a touch after,” recalled Orange Beach Fire Department’s Beach Safety Division Chief, Brett Lesinger. “It was a mass rescue of around six to eight people. Just as soon as the helicopter had landed, we received an emergency call in Orange Beach for Phoenix West II which is in our west end of town and again, the helicopter was successful in deploying lifeguards on multiple swimmers so almost back-to-back successful rescues.”

ALEA Senior Pilot, Brian Hand has been with the agency for nearly 10 years. Last year was his first to fly the beach and he saw first-hand the impact it makes.

“Especially down Fort Morgan and that area where they don’t have lifeguards,” Hand said. “We can patrol those areas and just be a presence so the public feels, you know, safer.”

The helicopter won’t patrol constantly. It will base at the Gulf State Park pavilion parking lot between patrols and deploy when a call comes in. It will cover the entire Baldwin County coast from the Florida state line to Fort Morgan.