Beach Access Issues
July 9,  2009

A busy July 4 week at the seashore included a water-related death


The event that overshadowed all others on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore during the holiday week was the death of four contractors for a fireworks company in a massive explosion on the morning of July 4 near the ferry docks in Ocracoke village. (More coverage on Local News Page.)

However, it was also a busy weekend for park rangers on other parts of the seashore with one water-related death, four arrests, and a number of violations and written and verbal warning for violations of regulations.

According to Hatteras Island’s head district ranger John McCutcheon, a visitor from Pennsylvania died on Saturday, July 4, while swimming near the Hatteras Island Fishing Pier in Rodanthe.

The victim, McCutcheon said, was Robert Rusinack, 70, of Hopwood, Pa.

According to the Park Service report on the incident, witnesses said Hopwood was swimming and boogie boarding near the pier when a possible rip current caught his board.  He attempted to swim after the board and got into trouble in the water, also possibly in the rip current.

McCutcheon said that family members went into the ocean to assist Hopwood and also got into trouble.

Local surfers assisted Hopwood and the relatives to shore.

Hopwood was not breathing and CPR was immediately started by Dare County Emergency Medical Services and the Chicamacomico Banks Rescue Squad.

Attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful, and he was declared dead at the scene.

McCutcheon said there were a total of five water rescues at the park during the week that ended on July 4, including two on Hatteras and three on Bodie Island.

McCutcheon also ran down some of the other numbers for the July 4 week – from Sunday, June 28, through Saturday, July 4. The numbers are for the entire seashore from Bodie Island through Ocracoke.

He said there were four arrests – three for driving under the influence and one for public intoxication.  The arrests, he said, were on beaches and area roadways.

Also, he said there were 51 violation notices (tickets), 69 written warnings, and 264 verbal warnings

Most of these, he said, involved speeding, traffic related violations, minors with alcohol, and reckless driving.  Thirty-two of the violations were related to the terms of the consent decree, which dictates, among other things, buffers for resource closings and a ban on night driving from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. He said there were several violations of the night driving ban.

In the Hatteras District, he said, dogs off leash violations were down.  There were 13 written warnings and only one person was ticketed.

McCutcheon noted that the ramps, especially Ramp 49 in Frisco, were treacherous with soft, powdery, deep sand.

“There were 91 visitor assists,” he said, “and most involved vehicles stuck in the ramps.”

McCutcheon said of the assists in which he was involved, “Every person I asked had not aired down their tires.”

The beaches, he said, were not as crowded as they were on Memorial Day.  The Park Service was counting vehicles on the beach but never had to close a ramp because of overcrowding.

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