August 11, 2016

64-year-old woman drowns off Ocracoke Island


A 64-year-old woman drowned on Thursday afternoon, Aug. 11, while swimming off a beach on Ocracoke Island in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

The incident is the third drowning in the seashore in less than a month.

According to a National Park Service news release, seashore rangers, Hyde County Emergency Medical Service, Hyde County Sheriff's Office, and the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department were paged at approximately 1:15 p.m. to respond to two women who had been caught in an apparent rip current near Ramp 67.

The two women included a 64-year-old and her juvenile daughter, both visitors to the island, the Park Service said.  The woman's husband attempted a rescue, but was unable to reach them and called bystanders to assist. The bystanders were able to pull both of the victims to the beach.  

When two Park Service rangers arrived on the scene, the woman was unresponsive and CPR was in progress.  The juvenile was having breathing difficulties.

The Park Service rangers provided CPR until the Hyde County EMS and other first responders arrived to assist.

The woman was pronounced dead at the scene by Ocracoke Emergency Medical Services.  The juvenile was transported by EMS to the Ocracoke airstrip and was airlifted to a hospital for further treatment.

No information was available yet on her condition.  The Park Service declined to release the names of the victims or the age of the juvenile.

All three of this summer's drowning victims are thought to involve rip currents, the most frequent cause of drowning deaths at the seashore.

A 67-year-old man drowned on July 21 near Ramp 70 on Ocracoke, and a 71-year-old man drowned on July 22 near the Frisco Pier on Hatteras Island.

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.

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