Local News

Body of Wake Forest teen recovered on Emerald Isle beach

Posted April 22, 2019 9:10 a.m. EDT
Updated April 22, 2019 6:35 p.m. EDT

— The body of a Wake Forest teenager reported missing Friday after a swim at Emerald Isle beach has been recovered, officials said Monday.

The body of Ian Frazier Lewis, 18, was recovered at about 3:30 a.m. Monday in the 2800 block of the Emerald Isle Beach Strand.

Search and recovery efforts started Friday for Lewis after he got caught in a rip current with another swimmer, Mary Paige Merical, 17, of Raleigh. Merical was rescued and transported to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville.

There were no official updates from the hospital on her condition Monday morning, but Emerald Isle posted on Facebook Monday, saying Paige "isn’t awake, has brain damage, is in critical condition and is slipping away."

The post asked for prayers for Merical and her family and said she was believed to be underwater for 14 minutes.

The search for Lewis was suspended Saturday. According to officials, the search was hampered by rough surf conditions that spawned waves between 6 and 9 feet.

Both teens were seniors at Wake Forest High School, which has been on spring break for the past week.

"I'm still in disbelief," Wakefield High School senior Gray McCullough said Monday.

McCullough, who also was on spring break at Emerald Isle, played soccer with Lewis on a North Carolina Football Club youth league team.

"Every time I needed him for any sort of thing, I would text him or Snapchat him, and he would be there for me, and vice versa," McCullough said. "He was always just a positive kind of person. and he was an extraordinary player."

Wake Forest High's soccer team posted on Twitter on Saturday that Lewis was a member of that team as well.

"Ian has been a valuable member of our soccer program over the past years," the post said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to Ian’s family and loved ones during this difficult time."

Numerous rip current deaths are reported each year in North Carolina during beach season. Between 2000 and 2017, rip currents killed more people in North and South Carolina than flooding, tornadoes and lightning combined.

In August, a 49-year-old woman from Kentucky drowned while on vacation in Emerald Isle with her friend and her friend's 9-year-old daughter. Also last August, another swimmer died after being pulled from Bogue Sound.

Never fight a rip current, officials say. If you're a strong swimmer, swim parallel to the shore to escape the current. Otherwise, just simply float until the current releases you, then swim back to shore.

A GoFundMe page has already raised thousands of dollars for Lewis' family, and students have organized a prayer vigil from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Joyner Park in Wake Forest, saying on Facebook that "the community needs to come together, hand in hand, to support those we love and hold dear."