June 5, 2013

Visitor drowns in rip current on Ocracoke


A 55-year-old Kentucky man drowned on Friday, May 31, while swimming near milepost 68 at the Pony Pens on Ocracoke.

According to National Park Service law enforcement ranger Jon Anglin, a call to Hyde County dispatch was received about 7:30 p.m. about a swimmer in trouble.

The National Park Service, the Hyde County Sheriff’s Office, Hyde County Emergency Medical Services, and the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department responded to the call.

According to Ocracoke district ranger Ed Fuller, the man was apparently caught in a rip current and was about 30 yards offshore when the first responders arrived.

A park ranger and a sheriff’s deputy donned floatation gear and retrieved the victim from the water.

The victim was unresponsive and was pronounced dead at the Ocracoke Health Center.

He was identified as John Mark Bell of Georgetown, Ky.

According to the Lexington, Ky., television station, WLEX, Bell had been married the weekend before and was on his honeymoon on Ocracoke.

This was the first drowning of the season on Cape Hatteras National Seashore.  However, rip currents are a major cause of drowning on the seashore beaches.

Rip currents are strong river-like currents that move away from the shore.  If caught in a rip current, stay calm, wave for assistance, and swim parallel to shore. Don't swim against the current.  Once out of the current, swim directly to shore.

For more information on rip currents

Local rip current forecast: Click on the yellow tab on The Island Free Press Front Page – at the top on the right.  The tab will take you to the National Weather Service in Newport, N.C., and the daily rip current forecast.

Eena Project: www.eenaproject.com

Weather Channel: www.weather.com

National Park Service – Cape Hatteras Seashore: www.nps.gov/caha

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