NC man dies after rip current pulls him out to sea

Justin Eakes

ATLANTIC BEACH, N.C. (WNCT) – A man is dead after getting caught up in a rip current Sunday morning at Atlantic Beach.

WNCT has learned Justin Eakes, one of two victims rescued from the ocean in Atlantic Beach, has died.

He and a 19-year-old woman from Greenville were visiting Atlantic Beach for the day. About 11 a.m., they were swept out to sea.

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It happened behind the Double Tree hotel, about 100 yards from the boardwalk. The beach in that area doesn’t have lifeguards, WNCT reported.

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.”

“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.

RELATED: Man critical, teen in hospital after rescue from NC rip currents

The Atlantic Beach Fire Department arrived shortly after and took the victims to Carteret Health Care.

From Carteret Health Care, Eakes was then transferred to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, Atlantic Beach fire chief Adam Snyder said at the time.

He was at first listed in critical condition at Vidant, but later died.

At last check, the female victim was still at Carteret Health Care. She is expected to be okay.

Lifeguards are urging beachgoers to stay in supervised areas. Even so, Smith said, when the winds and rip currents are 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 attempting to save two teenage girls from a rip current.

And there was another fatality the weekend before. On June 10, 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.

RELATED: Flag system key to communicating rip current conditions at NC beaches

“We are at about 20 to 25 rescues from … May 24 until today,” Snyder said. “Just this weekend in itself has been really bad because of the high surf conditions and the wind which is causing a significant pull on the rip currents.”

Red flags have been flying up and down the North Carolina coast since late last week, indicating rough surf that is creating dangerous rip currents.

“We urge people, if you are going to do this on a beach, grab anything, a body board, a cooler, whatever floats, take that with you to stabilize those people,” Snyder said. “When the fire department arrives on scene, they can come out and get you.”

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