July 22, 2016

67-year-old man drowns off Ocracoke


A 67-year-old man drowned Thursday afternoon while swimming off the beach on Ocracoke Island.

Boone Vandzura, chief ranger for the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, said the victim and a younger man were swimming off Ramp 70 near the airport.  They were about 60 yards offshore past the breakers, he said.

Vandzura said the two men began talking about how the current was changing when all of a sudden they realized they were being pulled out.  They tried to reach for each other, but were separated by a wave.

The younger man managed to get to shore and call 911 at about 3 p.m.

Park Service rangers, Duck lifeguards under contract to the NPS, Hyde County Emergency Medical Services, the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department, and the Hyde County Sheriff's Office responded.

The victim was found floating face down in knee-deep water several hundred yards down the beach from where the incident began, Vandzura said.

First responders immediately began CPR while the man was being transported off the beach to an ambulance.  He was pronounced dead in the ambulance, Vandzura said.

The victim, he said, was visiting Ocracoke with friends, and his name and hometown were not being released until his family could be notified, which still had not happened on Friday morning.

Vandzura said the drowning was rip-current related.

Rip currents are powerful, usually narrow channeled currents of water flowing away from shore. They typically extend from the shoreline, through the surf zone, and past the line of breaking waves. Rip currents can occur at any beach with breaking waves.

Rip currents are the number-one public safety risk on beaches in the United States, according to the National Weather Service.

Swimmers are advised to use extreme caution and to never try to swim directly back into shore against a rip current because you will become quickly exhausted.  If you become caught in a rip current, you should yell for help and remain calm.  Do not exhaust yourself and try to stay afloat while waiting for help.  If you have to swim out of a rip current, swim parallel to shore and then back to the beach when possible.

The most likely time for rip currents is a few hours either side of low tide.

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