October 19, 2016

75-year-old visitor is seashore's eighth drowning death


A 75-year-old man who was visiting from out of state drowned today while he was swimming in the ocean on the north end of Buxton.

The man, whose name was not released by the National Park Service, was the eighth drowning death this year in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Park Service chief ranger Boone Vandzura said a call came in at 3:38 this afternoon for a swimmer in trouble off the Buxton beach in front of the motels. Some bystanders noticed the man was having trouble and brought him to shore.

The victim had a boogie board and his wrist was still attached to it when he was brought to the beach.  CPR was begun by first responders on the scene, including the Dare County Sheriff's Office, the National Park Service, and the Hatteras Island Rescue Squad.

Vandzura said the efforts to revive the victim failed and he was pronounced dead on the beach.

According to the Hatteras Island Rescue Squad, Vandzura said, there were strong rip currents in the area at the time.

There have already been seven drowning deaths this summer on the seashore -- all of them have involved rip currents. 

The latest victim was a 17-year-old visitor who went missing while swimming south of the Rodanthe Pier on Oct. 13. His body was not discovered until Monday, Oct. 17.

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.

Two drowning deaths 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.

This year's eight drowning deaths is a higher number than seashore officials and locals can remember in recent history.  Last year, there were no drowning deaths in the seashore.  In past years, it has not been unusual to have a drowning or two each summer.

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  deaths at the seashore.

The National Weather Service issues rip current forecasts each day, and today's risk was ranked as high for all areas north of Cape Lookout, which includes the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The NWS also issued a beach hazard statement that included the possibility of dangerous shorebreak.

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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