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Rip current off Lighthouse Beach claims second victim in 15 days

By Staff | Sep 7, 2010

Strong rip currents off the shores of Sanibel claimed a second victim in the past several weeks on Sunday, when a 54-year-old Hialeah man drowned in the waters adjacent to Lighthouse Beach.

Roberto Llama and his wife, Gisela Gonzalez, had been swimming in San Carlos Bay on the afternoon of Sept. 5. According to the Sanibel Police Department report, at one point Gonzalez told Llama that she thought they had swum too far from shore.

Gonzalez later told police officers that the strong currents began to pull her and her husband out further, and that Llama told her to swim parallel to the shoreline. She informed her husband that she could no longer swim because she was getting tired. Gonzalez began to yell for help, in Spanish, before she noticed that her husband had become unresponsive.

The police report further stated that an unidentified jet-skiier arrived to rescue Llama and Gonzalez, and was assisted in that effort by an unidentified swimmer. A third man, later identified as Michael Ponce De Leon of St. Petersburg, Fla., helped pull Llama to shore and began performing CPR on him.

Sanibel Police Officers Kenneth Sutton and John Jakubowski responded to the scene around 1 p.m. and assisted with the emergency response rescue effort, taking over performing chest compressions on Llama until Lee County EMS medics arrived. Llama was pronounced dead on the scene a short time later.

Gonzalez also informed the first responders that her husband had several health issues, including a possible heart condition, and had been taking a daily aspirin regimen.

Members of the Sanibel Fire Rescue District and Lee County Sheriff’s Office also responded to the incident, the second drowning which occurred in local waters over the past several weeks.

On Aug. 21, 15-year-old Immokalee resident Robert Anzualda, Jr. passed away only a few hours after being rescued from the waters off the Sanibel Causeway.

According to a Lee County Sheriff’s Office incident report, Anzualda had been swimming with family and friends near the causeway’s "C" span before strong currents pulled the boy underneath the waters of San Carlos Bay.

Anzualda was transported to HealthPark Medical Center in Fort Myers, where he died while undergoing treatment in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.