Local News

Survivor calls for more rip current warnings on NC coast

Posted July 23, 2013

— A Chapel Hill man who barely survived after getting caught in a rip current along the North Carolina coast last month is calling for more warnings about dangerous surf conditions.

Scott Walker and his family were vacationing on Oak Island on June 28 and decided to take a last walk on the beach before heading home. Once in the water, however, Walker was quickly caught in a rip current.

"I really thought I might die," he said Monday.

Following instructions he's heard all of his life, the 44-year-old swam parallel to the beach and made it back to shore, where he suffered a massive heart attack.

"He exhausted everything in his body, and his heart just couldn't take that much stress," said his wife, Jennifer Halloran.

"In the space of 12 hours, I almost died twice," said Walker, who returned to work this week after recuperating at home from the vacation ordeal.

"They said the kind (of heart attack) that I had was a 'widow-maker.' Ninety percent of the time, it's fatal," he said.

Within a week of Walker escaping a rip current, four other people people died in similar currents off Brunswick County beaches. He and Halloran said beach towns need to post more notice to warn swimmers of the potential for rip currents.

"(There needs to be) either a flag system or some kind of sign, even a sign that says there is the potential for dangerous rip currents on this beach," Halloran said.

Scott Walker, rip current survivor Chapel Hill man suffered heart attack after escaping rip current

Brunswick County officials said they have no jurisdiction over the beaches, which are governed by the six towns along the coast.

Town ordinances for warning swimmers of rip currents vary, from electronic signs on beaches to refrigerator magnets in rental properties to brochures available for visitors.

"We have posted those signs as close to the beach as is allowed, and you have to pass them when you walk onto the beach," Oak Island Mayor Betty Wallace said.

The town and some of its neighbors are also considering flags. Representatives of the six towns plan to meet next month to discuss the recent rip current deaths and possible ways to improve safety.

"Before we order up a bunch of flags, we need to look and see where they would be most effective," Wallace said, adding that Oak Island tried to use warning flags in the 1980s but discontinued the practice because beach-goers would take them as souvenirs.

Walker and Halloran said they hope to see more warnings soon. If they had seen one on June 28, they said, they never would have gone in the water.

"We would have all been saved a lot of heartache," Halloran said.

18 Comments

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  • VickLo Jul 24, 3:12 p.m.

    Caution... Moving water...

  • Lightfoot3 Jul 24, 12:47 p.m.

    "there's an idea. just put signs up that say "THIS IS THE OCEAN"" - heard-it-all-before

    Funny!

  • Marty King Jul 24, 12:42 p.m.

    Signs, signs... everywhere signs.

  • Scubagirl Jul 24, 12:12 p.m.

    you know, I'm really sorry this man got caught in a rip current, and that he had a heart attack after HOWEVER: rip currents have been in the news almost constantly this summer and warnings have been issued. If one is dumb enough to get in the water KNOWING they are a possibility then it's no one's fault but HIS OWN.

    Just because he didn't have th good sense to heed said warnings doesn't mean we need more of them. IT'S CALLED PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY and a little bit of common sense thrown in. smh at people

  • sgarner Jul 24, 12:00 p.m.

    TRY TIEING A PORK CHOP AROUND THE SO-SO SWIMMER, THEN THE PEOPLE WILL GET A FREE SHOW ... TRYING TI OUT RUN THE SHARKS , BEFORE THEY GET SUCKED OUT TO SEA IN THE RIP TIDE

    LANDLUBBER

  • heard-it-all-before Jul 24, 11:35 a.m.

    give me a break.

    IT'S THE OCEAN. what more warning do you need?

    there's an idea. just put signs up that say "THIS IS THE OCEAN"

  • JohnnyMcRonny Jul 24, 11:26 a.m.

    Watching the video, he clearly is out of shape so no surprise he was exhausted.

    I'm very fit and a scuba instructor and have to handle less experienced divers caught in potentially serious conditions. I'm very wary of going in the sea at the beach even in mild surf conditions. I'm also wary of going deep into the woods in the mountains on foot, too. I'm not trained and I'm not stupid enough to do it.

    Too many people just don't get how powerful moving water is. One cubic yard is 3/4 of a ton.

  • tootiefrootie Jul 24, 10:47 a.m.

    I guess this individual did not know the difference between calm and rough seas.

  • superman Jul 24, 10:35 a.m.

    How about the danger of sharks? The people who drowned earlier couldnt even swim and they went in the water. You cant protect people from themselves. Remember the people on the Titanic there werent enough life jackets for everyone! Be sure and educate yourself before you get yourself in serious trouble.

  • Karmageddon Jul 24, 10:03 a.m.

    No matter how many warning you put up there will always be people who chose to ignore them

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