July 22, 2016

71-year-old man drowns near Frisco Pier


A 71-year-old visitor drowned this afternoon while swimming near the Frisco Pier in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

National Park Service chief ranger Boone Vandzura said that a 911 call was received at 3:24 p.m. that a person was in the water in distress in a rip current.

Vandzura said that the man was swimming by himself about 100 yards offshore without a flotation device when bystanders noticed that he was in trouble.  Some bystanders went out to help the victim but he was already under the water when they got to him.

Vandzura said that Park Service rangers, the Hatteras Island Rescue Squad, Dare County Emergency Medical Services, and the Dare County Sheriff's Office responded to the call. The Rescue Squad retrieved the victim with a Jet Ski, and first responders, he said, tried CPR but were unsuccessful.

The Park Service is not releasing the name or hometown of the victim until family members are notified.

This is the second drowning in as many days on the seashore.  A 67-year-old male visitor drowned in a rip current yesterday afternoon on Ocracoke Island.

"We are saddened by these tragic events," seashore Superintendent David Hallac said in a statement this afternoon, "and our hearts go out to the family and friends of the victims."

Rip currents are the most frequent cause of drowning deaths at the seashore, but until yesterday, there had not been a drowning in the park since 2014, according to the Island Free Press archives.

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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