October 17, 2016

UPDATE: Body of missing swimmer
found near Avon pier


The body of a 17-year-old visitor who went missing while swimming in the surf in Rodanthe washed up last night just before 10 p.m. north of the Avon Pier.

The 17-year-old was swimming in about chest-deep water with a 16-year-old friend just south of the Rodanthe Pier on Thursday, Oct. 13, when they were pulled out by a rip current.

The 16-year-old managed to get back to the beach, but the other teen was never seen again despite attempts to rescue him by the Chicamacomico Banks Water Rescue team.

Chet Bailey, the captain of the rescue team, said there had been a heavy rip current in that area south of the pier and that rescue team members have pulled 20 or 30 swimmers out of it.

The U.S. Coast Guard was also called in to search, and sent a small boat and a helicopter. Bailey said the Coast Guard helicopter searched through the night until 7:30 on Friday morning, covering about 900 square miles.

The Chicamacomico Banks team, he said, continued searching at low tide from the Rodanthe Pier south to the Avon Pier for the teen's body.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore ranger Boone Vandzura said this morning that the call came in at 9:51 p.m. Sunday night that a visitor found the body about 20 yards north of the Avon Pier.

Outer Banks Group Superintendent David Hallac said, "Our thoughts are with his family and friends during this most difficult time."

The teen-ager's death is the seventh drowning this summer at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore -- many more than anyone can remember.  All of them have involved 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 last Thursday's risk was ranked as high 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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