Birmingham man drowns in rough waters in Panama City Beach

A 31-year-old Birmingham man drowned Friday in rough Gulf waters in Panama City Beach, Florida.

According to police, the man joined about 8 to 10 of his friends for a swim in the Gulf around 7:40 p.m. in the 17000 block of Front Beach Road near the Tropic Winds condominiums. The man was later seen by his friends floating face down in the water, a Panama City Police Beach sergeant told

Attempts to administer CPR were ineffective and the man was pronounced dead a a beachside emergency room.

Authorities are not releasing the man’s name, but WMBB-TV in Panama City identified him as Darrius Stone Jr. of Birmingham.

Red flag warnings were present along beaches throughout the Gulf on Friday, warning swimmers to stay out of the water because of dangerous conditions.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and Chris Blankenship, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, officially open the Interpretive Center and East Pedestrian Bridge on Thursday, May 24, 2018, at Gulf State Park. Ivey said on Thursday that she is going to wait for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to weigh in on a permitting process for a proposed $10 million boat launch in Orange Beach before determining the state’s involvement. (John Sharp/

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New Aviation Company Opening At Birmingham Airport

BIRMINGHAM, AL – A new aviation company celebrated its grand opening Tuesday, a firm that will operate out of more than 67,000 square feet of space on both the East and West ramps of the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport.

Southern Sky Aviation, which offers charter flights, maintenance, flight training, aircraft sales, aircraft management and avionics services, was founded by Birmingham business veteran Bill Gunnells, who was previously the CEO and founder of a prescription drug card benefits company RxBenefits before selling the company in 2016. Shortly thereafter, Gunnells and president Bo Andrews, who has been in the aviation business for 31 years, began the long approval process for obtaining a Part 135 Charter certificate from the FAA after seeing an opportunity to bring a comprehensive aviation company to Birmingham.

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"Aviation is something I’ve been passionate about my entire life since my first flying lesson at age 16," Gunnels said. "To start and grow a company that operates at the highest service levels in all the major areas of private aviation is a dream come true. Additionally, being able to reinvigorate and strengthen the aviation industry in Birmingham while also creating jobs where employees can make a good living and have a great quality of life is the ultimate reward. I’m excited about the future."

Southern Sky can handle the maintenance needs of all types of aircraft, arrange private charters, help clients buy and sell aircraft, manage aircraft so that owners can protect their investment and those who travel in it, plus provide training for anyone wanting to be a pilot.

"We are providing clients with a better alternative to traditional commercial or private air travel," Andrews said. "In addition, we offer the highest levels of concierge hospitality services on our charter flights. For us, it is not just about getting people where they need to go, we are getting them there and back safely, with smiles on their faces."

Southern Sky Aviation’s operations are conducted from two locations: Hangar 34 on the West ramp and Hangar 14 on the East ramp of the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport.

Photo by Michael Seale/Patch

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