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Drowning victim's family leads rip current warning efforts

Posted at 8:05 PM, Jul 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-10 23:50:48-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Tx. — The family of 18-year-old King High School Senior Je'Sani Smith, who drowned off Padre Island in April, met with the Nueces County Commissioners Court Wednesday to talk about raising awareness of rip currents, the dangerous tides that took their son's life.

"This has been really hard for us, and we wouldn't be able to do this without the support of a great community," Smith's father, Terrence Denson said.

The family already led a number of efforts to let people know about the dangers, but the latest is still in the works. Nueces County Emergency Management Coordinator Melissa Munguia says she and other local leaders are trying to figure out the most effective way to incorporate warnings about rip currents into the Reverse Alert system. It allows you to go online and sign-up to receive emergency alerts from your community via email or text message. When the system does start alerting for rip currents, Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales hopes one group of people in particular takes advantage of them.

"I'll tell you who really needs these alerts and needs to sign up for them are the young people," Judge Canales said.

Other efforts Smith's family has already put in place to increase awareness of rip currents include the website and wristbands to advertise for it. Saniwet was Smith's nickname, and the website is both a tribute to his life and a cautionary tale about the power of the ocean.

"The website is there for people to learn more about Je'Sani, if they have not heard about his story," Kiwana Denson, Smith's mother, said. "It's also an opportunity to sign up for the Reverse Alert notifications."

There's a link to the Reverse Alert website on, but you can also access it by clicking here.

In addition to aiding efforts to add rip current warnings to that system, the commissioners court today also named July Beach Safety Awareness Month.

"I want you to know that you are loved, and Je'Sani is loved and missed," Judge Canales said to Smith's family.