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Snorkeler who drowned Sunday identified as Boynton Beach resident

Paul Swingle retired from his job as a computer scientist in 2014 and spent the ensuing years doing what he loved — traveling, flying and spending time on the water.

On Sunday, the 67-year-old Boynton Beach resident drowned despite desperate rescue attempts after he was caught up in rough waters while snorkeling near the Boynton Beach Inlet.

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Swingle was diving in the ocean on the north side of the inlet and was swept up in the inlet’s notoriously strong currents, Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies said.

Mark Swingle, one of Paul Swingle’s two adult sons, said authorities told the family a friend was swimming with his father when he got into trouble.

“It sounds like something he would have been doing,” Mark Swingle said of his father snorkeling on a Sunday afternoon.

The Boynton Beach Inlet has long been one of the most dangerous swimming spots in Palm Beach County.

While the south side of the inlet is patrolled by lifeguards daily from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., there are no lifeguards stationed on the north side.

After three people drowned in 2014 while swimming in the area, multiple signs were posted that read: “Hazardous conditions. Unguarded area. Lifeguard protected swimming area located south side of the inlet.”

A sand transfer station that creates sharp drop-offs on the north side also results in hazardous swimming conditions not far from shore. Strong currents can drag swimmers and surfers on the north side into the inlet’s jetty or out to sea.

Despite that, authorities say there is usually no shortage of people going into the ocean on the north side.

Sunday’s surf conditions were especially perilous. The National Weather Service in Miami issued a high risk of dangerous rip currents early Sunday morning for Palm Beach County’s coastline as beaches were battered by persistent waves and easterly winds.

Rich Stevens, who was at the inlet and shot video of rescue attempts, said beach-goers desperately tried to reach him as currents dragged him into the jetty, where he crashed into the rocks. “People started screaming,” the Delray Beach man said. “But the current was so forceful. It brought him under the pier and under the bridge.”

Swingle was plucked from the water by a private boater who took him to a dock where paramedics were waiting, said Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Capt. Albert Borroto.

Swingle was a native New Yorker who moved to Delray Beach in the 1960s after he began working at IBM in Boca Raton. Swingle worked there until IBM closed their Boca Raton facility in 1996. He had two adult children and had been married twice, Mark Swingle said.

Mark Swingle said his father, who was also a certified pilot, had spent much of his retirement traveling around the world.

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