October 13, 2016

Teen swimmer missing off Rodanthe beach


Two teen-aged boys who were swimming  south of the Rodanthe Pier this afternoon were pulled out into the ocean, apparently by a large breaking wave.  One of the two teens made it back safely to the beach, but the other was still missing at dark.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore chief ranger Boone Vandzura said a call came in 2:27 p.m. for a water rescue for two young swimmers -- a 16- and a 17-year old, both visitors to Hatteras Island -- who were swept out without flotation devices.

Chicamacomico Banks Water Rescue, the National Park Service, the Dare County Emergency Medical Services, and Dare Sheriff's Office responded

Onlookers said the boys were chest deep in the water, playing in the surf when they were by a high wave.

The 16-year-old made it to back to shore safely but was extremely worn out  from the struggle and was taken by ambulance to the hospital.

The U.S. Coast Guard was called to the scene and sent a boat and a helicopter to assist with the search.

Vandzura said the ocean was extremely rough with a heavy shorebreak, but that rip currents apparently did not play a part in the teen's disappearance.

The Chicamacomico Banks Water Rescue, Vandzura said, stopped searching at 5:30  p.m., and the Coast Guard called off its search at dusk.

The Chicamacomico Banks Water Rescue, he said, will continue to search for the missing teen again tomorrow and for several days at low tide.

The National Weather Service says there is a high risk of rip currents and dangerous shorebreak again tomorrow on  all Hatteras beaches, as large swells from distant Hurricane Nicole continue rolling into the beaches. Water levels will also be higher because of high astronomical tides.

With various tropical systems hanging around out in the ocean during much of September and early October, the rip current risk in the seashore has been high for much of the past month.

There have already been six drowning deaths this summer on the seashore -- all of them are thought to involve rip currents. Two were on Ocracoke -- a 64-year-old woman on Aug. 11 and a 67-year-old man on July 21. A 71-year-old man drowned near the Frisco Pier on July 22. And, on Sept. 9, a 71 year-old man and a 55-year-old man who tried to rescue him both drowned in the ocean off Rodanthe. On Oct. 2, a 55-year-old man went missing off the beach in Salvo.  His body washed up two days later south of Ramp 23.

Rip currents are the number-one public safety risk on beaches in the United States, according to the National Weather Service, and they are the most frequent cause of drowning deaths at the seashore.

The National Weather Service issues rip current forecasts each day, and today's risk was ranked as high north on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

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.

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 National Weather Service's beach/rip current forecast is available on the Island Free Press home page -- at the top on the right hand side. Look for the colorful umbrellas. It is also available at http://www.weather.gov/beach/mhx.

More on rip current safety is available at http://www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov/.

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