ECU freshman, three-sport Raleigh prep athlete drowned Saturday at Atlantic Beach

tmcdonald@newsobserver.comJune 3, 2013 

Braxton Horton, who drowned Saturday June 1, 2013 at Atlantic Beach near the town of Pine Knoll Shores.


— Braxton Horton, a three-sport athlete at Athens Drive High School who had just completed his freshman year at East Carolina University, drowned over the weekend in Atlantic Beach.

Horton, 19, had been working for about two weeks at Camp Seagull, a summer camp for boys in Arapahoe, when he and others from the camp went to Atlantic Beach on Saturday, according to his aunt, Andrea Horton. He was swimming with several other people around 4:30 p.m. when he got dragged out into the ocean by rip currents and was swept under.

Andrea Horton, 28, said staff members at Camp Seagull called Braxton’s mother, Rhonda Horton, that afternoon to let her know he was missing.

“We grabbed a few things and rushed down there,” Andrea Horton said. “By the time we got down there they had suspended the search because it was nightfall.”

Early Sunday night, a couple walking along the beach in nearby Pine Knoll Shores spotted Horton’s body in the water.

Horton visited his family in Raleigh the week before he died. He attended his family church, Victory Tabernacle Church on West South Street, where his aunt and 12-year-old sister Sydney were singing in the youth choir.

“He was smiling,” Andrea Horton said. “He was always smiling.”

Horton was majoring in biology and had finished the spring semester at ECU with a 3.5 grade-point average.

“He wanted to be a physician’s assistant,” Andrea Horton said. “He has a heart to help people. He’s very caring. He wanted a career where he could make a lot of money but not be in school forever.”

Horton graduated in 2012 from Athens Drive, where he was a wide receiver on the varsity football team, played guard on the basketball team and participated in the long jump and triple jump on the track team.

His teammates and coaches called him “Philly,” because he had spent part of his childhood in Philadelphia.

“Braxton was a great kid all the way around,” said Jimmy Ray, who coached him in all three sports at Athens Drive.

Ray would not go into details, but he said Horton was under a lot of pressure off the field, at home. Ray said things got so rough that the Athens Drive coaching staff, including athletic director Alvin Thompson, “banded together” to help him out.

“The family had to move a couple of times his senior year, but he never missed school, he always made good grades and he came to practice everyday, ready to go,” Ray said. “Any coach would have understood if he was having a bad day, but he always had a great smile. He was just a good quality kid.”

During Horton’s senior year, he made several key catches that led the football team to wins. He was a reserve guard on the basketball team and won both the long jump and broad jump events at the Bojangles’ Relays at Apex High School.

Braxton’s mother, aunt, stepfather and a church member remained in Atlantic Beach on Saturday night while rescue crews searched for him and patrolled the beaches. The family returned to Raleigh on Sunday afternoon with a glimmer of hope that he was still alive.

“He had been missing for so long,” Andrea Horton said. “We know that God performs miracles, but we also knew the circumstances.

“He’s with God now, and that’s all that matters.”

Horton’s coaches and classmates planned to hold a vigil for him Monday night at the Athens Drive High School football field.

News researcher Peggy Neal contributed to this report.

McDonald: 919-829-4533

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