Four people died at North Carolina beaches in a span of just three days.
Four men — one at Pelican Watch, one at Holden Beach, one at Sunset Beach and another at Wrightsville Beach all died while swimming in the ocean.
The first drowning happened on Thursday night, when a man entered the water at Pelican Watch to try to rescue three young men, 19, 14 and 12, who were pulled out to sea by strong currents, as first reported by WVEC.
Kenny Ray Gooch, 32, of Powells Point, the boyfriend of the 12-year-old’s mother, rushed into the water just north of the Kitty Hawk Pier, according to Southern Shores Police.
Gooch was pulled past the young men and disappeared, police said. The 19-, 14-, and 12-year-olds were all able to make it back to shore with help from others on the beach.
Emergency responders pulled Gooch out of the water and performed CPR, but he died.
Gooch was born in Chapel Hill and raised in Greenville, according to his obituary. He’s the eighth person to die because of rough surf or rip currents off the North Carolina coast this year, according to multiple reports.
“The Southern Shores Police Department sends its thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of the victim and a sincere thank you for all those that assisted in this unfortunate incident,” said Southern Shores Police Chief David M. Kole.
Brunswick County Coastline Rescue Chief David Robinson said emergency crews were called to the 400 block of Ocean Beach Boulevard in West Holden Beach Saturday afternoon “for a reported drowning,” first reported by WECT.
A surfer pulled a 20-year-old man from the water, Robinson said. The man had been caught in a rip current about a hundred yards from the fishing pier.
Emergency responders attempted CPR as they rushed the 20-year-old to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead. He had not been identified as of Sunday morning.
The third drowning happened earlier on Saturday afternoon at Sunset Beach, Robinson said.
A man about 40 years old died while trying to help another struggling swimmer.
The person the man was trying to help “is expected to be fine,” Robinson said. Emergency crews had not identified the man or the person he saved as of Sunday.
A fourth drowning happened Saturday morning at Wrightsville Beach, as first reported by The Wilmington Star-News.
A lifeguard south of Johnnie Mercers Pier saw a man in distress in the water. Attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful, according to Wrightsville Fire Chief Glen Rogers. Rogers did not identify the man.
The four deaths bring North Carolina’s total deaths related to rough surf and rip currents to 11 this year.
A 4-year-old boy died in April after being swept away by a wave while walking on the beach with his mother.
North Carolina has had at least 55 recorded rip current deaths since 1996, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The U.S. Lifesaving Association estimates nearly 100 people die in rip currents each year in the United States.
On June 13, 10 people were rescued in rip current-related incidents in two hours, according to Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue. Fifteen others were rescued by North Myrtle Beach Ocean Rescue in South Carolina, according to the rescue group.
Rip currents accounted for more than 80 percent of the 84,900 rescues that lifeguards made in 2016. For beach forecasts, go to www.weather.gov/beach/mhx.
If you get caught in a rip current, NOAA and the American Red Cross recommend you:
▪ Remain calm to conserve energy, and don’t fight against the current.
▪ Think of it as a treadmill that cannot be turned off and that you need to step to the side of.
▪ Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim at an angle – away from the current – toward shore.
▪ Float or calmly tread water If you are unable to swim out of the rip current. When out of the current, swim toward shore.
▪ Wave your arms or yell for help to draw attention to yourself, if you are still unable to reach shore.