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Greenville man dies after being caught in rip current

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By Seth Thomas Gulledge
The Daily Reflector

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Greenville man died today after he was caught in a rip current Sunday at Atlantic Beach.

Justin Eakes, 22, was among five beachgoers who were trapped Sunday afternoon in a rip current, according to Atlantic Beach Fire Chief Adam Snyder. Fire and rescue officials received a report about 11 a.m. of the group having trouble in the water about 100 yards east of the Double Tree Hotel, 2717 W. Fort Macon Road.

Eakes was pulled from the water after nearly drowning and was in cardiac arrest on the shore. Paramedics performed CPR and transported him to Carteret General Hospital. He later was airlifted to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville. A hospital spokeswoman confirmed today that Eakes died this morning.

A 26-year old woman, also from Greenville, ingested a large amount of water but was in stable condition.

Snyder said the incident occurred on an unguarded stretch of the beach, and bystanders brought the victims in from the water. The fire department advises untrained bystanders against attempting rescues in a rip current, as it often can lead to additional injuries or deaths.

If someone ignores the department’s advice and still attempts a rescue as people often do, Snyder said they should use some form of flotation device, such as a boogie board, pool noodle or a cooler that floats.This allows the victim and rescuer to float safely until trained rescuers can arrive. 

Crews responded the day before to the Henderson access area on the eastern part of the beach, where a 56-year-old New Bern man rescued two teenage girls who were screaming for help. Snyder said the man suffered a cardiac arrest after rescuing the girls, and rescue crews administered CPR. The man died after he was transported to the hospital.

That area also is unguarded, according to Snyder. He advises beachgoers to stay in the main circle and Atlantic, which he said is protected by lifeguards daily.

High currents and winds in the last three days prompted red flags to be displayed throughout the beach all weekend. Snyder said it is important for people to understand that red flags mean that swimmers should not enter the water. 

He said that if beachgoers ignore the advisory and swim anyway, they should do so at a portion of the beach that is guarded. 

Red flags are still flying today, Snyder said.

Contact Seth Thomas Gulledge at sgulledge@reflector.com or 252-329-9579.

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