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Three people drowned on the NC coast this week. Here are things to be aware of at beach

Coast Guard searches for boy pulled into ocean by wave on NC Outer Banks

A Coast Guard helicopter assists with the search for a missing 4-year-old boy off Kitty Hawk on April 25, 2018. The child was walking with his mother on the beach when a wave knocked him down and pulled him into the rough surf.
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A Coast Guard helicopter assists with the search for a missing 4-year-old boy off Kitty Hawk on April 25, 2018. The child was walking with his mother on the beach when a wave knocked him down and pulled him into the rough surf.

The first full week of June proved to be a deadly week at the Outer Banks.

This year, three tourists have drowned swimming the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Hatteras National Seashore. They all drowned this week.

“This was abnormal and extremely rare,” said Boone Vandzura of the National Park Service.

“We haven’t had this happen in recent history.”

Last year, seven people died while swimming off Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and eight drowned in 2016.

The National Park Service has not identified the three swimmers, all male, who died this week. None of them were found with a floatation device.

On Wednesday, two 55-year-old males visiting beaches on the Cape Hatteras Seashore drowned within 7 hours of each other.

UC Berkeley current oceanographer, Francis Smith, explains rip currents, how to avoid them, and how to escape them if pulled in.

The National Park Service said the ocean swept away a 55-year-old man from Benson, North Carolina while he stood on a sandbar about 50 yards from the beach. The Benson man and his family were visiting a beach south of Frisco.

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911 received the call about the incident at 10 a.m.

A wave, possibly a rip current, swept away the Benson man into deep water where he couldn’t stand and obligated him to tread water, Vandzura said.

Bystanders swam to the sandbar to try to save the man when they noticed he needed help, but they did not feel comfortable swimming beyond the sandbar, Vandzura said.

“The bystanders did absolutely the right thing. If you’re not a trained lifeguard in the ocean, you don’t go into those waters,” he said.

Later that day, the family of a 55-year-old man from North Brookfield, Massachusetts visiting a beach on Ocracoke Island called for help when they noticed they hadn’t seen the man in the ocean for a while.

911 received the family’s call at 4:47 p.m. Wednesday.

On Sunday, a bystanders saw a 79-year-old man from Pennsylvania floating about 30 yards from the beach in the water near the northern end of Buxton. One bystander unsuccessfully tried to revive the man.

Although it’s not clear how the 79-year-old died, rip currents were forecast for the area that day, the National Park Service said.

How to stay safe at the beach

  • The National Weather Service advises all swimmers to know water conditions before swimming in the ocean. Check the risk for rip currents here.

  • Rip currents are powerful, narrow channels of water, that can move up to 8 feet per second, according to the National Ocean Service. If caught in a rip current, the ocean service advises swimmers to swim parallel to the shore and swim back to the beach at an angle. Trying to swim directly back to shore may become tiring, putting swimmers at risk of drowning.

An impromptu memorial of shells has been set up at the Lillian Street in Kitty Hawk for the 4-year-old lost in the surf on April 25, 2018. People are encouraged to write messages to the family on the shells with their thoughts and prayers.

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