North Carolina

Man dies days after surfers pulled him unconscious from waters off Emerald Isle, NC

How to survive if you get caught in a rip current

Rip currents are powerful, narrow channels of fast-moving water. Rip currents account for 80% of beach rescues, and can be dangerous if you don't know what to do. This video from NOAA Ocean Today shows you how to break the grip of the rip.
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Rip currents are powerful, narrow channels of fast-moving water. Rip currents account for 80% of beach rescues, and can be dangerous if you don't know what to do. This video from NOAA Ocean Today shows you how to break the grip of the rip.

One of the four swimmers rescued Sunday from a swift current off Emerald Isle, North Carolina, has died, reports WCTI.

Robert Patterson Jr., 48, died Tuesday, after spending two days in a hospital, Spectrum News reported.

His death is the seventh fatality off North Carolina’s beaches this season, including two Wake Forest High students, a Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune and a 24-year-old who tried and failed to save his girlfriend’s 5-year-old son.

Patterson was one of four struggling swimmers who were dragged to shore by surfers near the Bogue Inlet Pier, reported WNCT.

Emerald Isle Fire Chief Bill Walker told WCTI that the surfers were in the process of returning three swimmers to shore when they saw Patterson in the water “yelling for help.” The Jacksonville, North Carolina man was unconscious when emergency personnel began performing life-saving measures on the beach, the station reported.

The other three swimmers, who have not been named, were not seriously hurt, reported WNCT.

Emerald Isle Police Chief Tony Reese told the Carteret County News-Times that the 48-year-old man “was breathing and had a pulse” when he arrived at Carteret Health Care in Morehead City.

A Facebook fundraiser to help pay for Patterson’s hospital and funeral bills has been started by his cousin Johanna Barnowski.

“It is with a very heavy heart that I am writing this,” Barnowski said in the post, where she asked for donations that will also be used for paying to transport Patterson’s body. “As many of you know by now, my cousin Robbie was in an accident on Sunday at Emerald Isle where he got caught in a rip tide and drowned. He was left in critical condition and was on life support until Tuesday morning. He didn’t make it and passed on (today) 5/21/19.”

“Robbie was the funniest and most kind man! He loved his family and we will all miss him,” Barnowski said on Facebook.

Emerald Isle had yellow flags out on its beaches Sunday, meaning conditions were rough in the waters but swimming was allowed.

Walker said there were six water rescues over the weekend, and warnings for dangerous currents are still flying, according to Spectrum News.

Most of the deaths off North Carolina beaches this year have been blamed on swimmers getting caught in deadly rip currents.

Investigators have not yet said the cause of death in one of the cases, involving 69-year-old Thomas James Dickerson of Chapel Hill, who was found dead last month in the waters off the Carolina Beach boardwalk.

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Mark Price has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering beats including schools, crime, immigration, the LGBTQ issues, homelessness and nonprofits. He graduated from the University of Memphis with majors in journalism and art history, and a minor in geology.
Noah Feit is a Real Time reporter with The State and McClatchy Carolinas Regional Team. The award-winning journalist has worked for multiple newspapers since starting his career in 1999.
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