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Ocean Isle Beach town leaders discuss rip current safety

Posted July 9, 2013

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— The Town Council of Ocean Isle Beach on Tuesday voted in favor of additional measures along its coast to help make swimming safer after four people drowned in rip currents off Brunswick County beaches over the past week.

For an immediate enhancement to waterfront safety, Ocean Isle Beach council members decided to add EMTs to the regular police patrols, and they will also add flotation throw rings to vehicles on the beach.

The council plans to meet in August with the county and other area municipalities to look at long-term solutions and funding options.

Brunswick County beaches are controlled by municipalities, so the county has no control over how beaches are patrolled and maintained.

But Brunswick County's director of emergency services, Anthony Marzano, says he would like to see warning flags, or some other low-tech option on beachfronts, so that residents and visitors can easily be notified of rip current dangers.

Ocean Isle Beach Ocean Isle Beach town leaders discuss rip current safety

There are no lifeguards along the nearly 40 miles of beaches in the county.

Ocean Isle Beach Mayor Debbie Smith said that she likes the idea of putting out warning flags, but manpower and funding are issues.

Local emergency officials, she said, have been out warning swimmers about rip currents.

"We are trying to educate, educate, educate," she said. "We are physically on the beach with police officers and the fire department talking with people."

Troy Smith, of Chesterfield, Va., says he's seen several water rescues over the 20 years he's been visiting Ocean Isle Beach with his family.

"They need to do something," he said. "We knew there aren't any lifeguards, but we thought, at least, we thought there would be some kind of warning, like red flags or something, up."

Rip currents are strong channels of water that are difficult for the untrained eye to see. Panicked swimmers often drown from exhaustion as they try to fight the current.

Mitchell McLean, 54, a chief District Court judge in western North Carolina, drowned Wednesday off Sunset Beach while trying to help Mary Anne Galway, 55, of Waxhaw, and her husband struggling in the water. Galway also died.

William Nicolaro, 72, of Palm Harbor, Fla., also drowned Wednesday at Ocean Isle Beach. Randall Joyce, 57, of Pfafftown, drowned Thursday in the surf off Holden Beach.

If caught in a rip current, people should let the water carry them out to sea while trying to swim parallel to shore, as the currents are usually narrow and funnel through breaks in sandbars.

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  • goldenosprey Jul 11, 2013

    Being used to the east-facing beaches where rips are more common in the summer, the fatalities were surprising. It is hard to imagine the lack of lifeguards. I was on a Brunswick CO. beach last week and the swells were not that large. It is a shame. More education is needed. Rips are easy to survive if one does not panic. As beaches become more popular it goes to a resort community's interests to protect visitors.

  • sunshine1040 Jul 9, 2013

    Warnings would be nice put them up in areas where people park but then most people ignore signs anyway and think they know better then officials. If you swim in the ocean you might find riptides and even sharks

  • Rebelyell55 Jul 9, 2013

    I'm guessing with the up coming lawsuit against Carolina beach, they're starting to worry a little. I don't think adding more money of personnel will make that much of an effect. But I agree that more education is needed. Problem is, some will still go into dangerous water no matter what they're told. Just like the Carolina deal, what if the guy was eaten by a shark? Would they still of sued?