ATLANTIC BEACH, N.C. (WNCT) – A young man is in critical condition after a pair were rescued from rip currents at Atlantic Beach on Sunday, officials said.
The Greenville pair, a 19-year-old woman and a 21-year old man, were rescued around 11 a.m. after getting caught in a rip current.
Atlantic Beach fire chief Adam Snyder told WNCT that the 21-year-old was transported to a local hospital and is in critical condition.
The female victim remains at Carteret Health Care and is expected to be okay.
New Bern resident Matt Smith was one of the first to respond to the scene.
“It was terrible,” Smith said. “Some of those images will be hard to erase.”
It happened behind the Double Tree hotel, about 100 yards down from the boardwalk.
“We looked out, saw him floating face down unfortunately in the waves, ran out, brought him up to the beach and started doing CPR on him,” Smith said.
The Atlantic Beach Fire Department arrived shortly after and transported both victims to the local hospital. This all happened at an unguarded beach, without a lifeguard or warning sign.
“If it was in a supervised area, it probably wouldn’t have happened at all,” Atlantic Beach fire chief Adam Snyder said. “They probably might have gotten in trouble, but again, when they are coming down, it’s a red flag. The lifeguards are whistling you in. They know where the danger is. They know where the sandbar is. They know that you are getting out too far.
Lifeguards are urging beachgoers to stay in a supervised area. Even so, Smith said when the winds and rip currents are this high, he believes getting in the water is not worth the risk.
“Days like today I would even consider not going in,” Smith said. “There is little creases where the waves cross where you suspect there is a rip current, so even if I was going to go in, I wouldn’t go very far. Sometimes not very far is too far.”
The rescue comes one day after a 56-year-old man died near the Henderson Avenue public beach access in Atlantic Beach after suffering cardiac arrest and drowning while trying to save two teenage girls from a rip current.
That rip current death is the second in just over a week along the Crystal Coast. Last Saturday, 17-year-old Elijah Hinnant of Goldsboro died after getting caught in a rip current in Emerald Isle. His body was spotted in the water by swimmers several days later.
Red flags have been flying up and down the North Carolina coast since late last week for rough surf that is creating dangerous rip currents.