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Man dies swimming in Ocracoke in second ocean-related fatality of the day

A second person died today in an ocean-related fatality at Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

A 55-year-old Massachusetts man was found floating about three feet from the shore near Ramp 70 on Ocracoke Island, the National Park Service said in a news release. The death occurred less than six hours after another 55-year-old visitor died in a swimming incident in Frisco.

“Today has been a very hard day at Cape Hatteras National Seashore,” said National Parks of Eastern North Carolina Superintendent David Hallac. “Our staff offer our sincere condolences for the loss of two visitors. We urge everyone to be very careful when swimming in the Atlantic Ocean.”

Authorities received a 911 call about the latest incident at 4:47 p.m. Bystanders discovered the victim after answering a family member’s call for assistance finding him. The family member also called 911.

The bystander performed CPR as soon as the man was brought to the beach, with live-saving measures continued by Ocracoke Emergency Medical Services, Hyde County Sheriff’s Office, Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department, National Park Service Surf Rescue Lifeguards and seashore rangers. The victim, from North Brookfield, Massachusetts, did not have a flotation device. His name has not been released.

Around 10 a.m. today, another man visiting from Benson died after being seen on a small sandbar about 50 yards from the beach in the Frisco Day Use Area, the seashore said in a news release.

A bystander, after hearing a call for help from the man’s family, went into the water and attempted to help. But before he could reach the sandbar, the victim was swept away by what might have been a rip current, the release said. The man did not have a flotation device.

The bystander was able to reach the victim once “his body returned closer to the shore.” Once the bystander brought the individual back to the beach, another bystander attempted compression CPR.

Dare County Emergency Medical Services, Dare County Sheriff’s Office, Hatteras Island Rescue Squad, and seashore rangers responded and continued resuscitation efforts, but the man died. He has not been publicly identified.

National Park Service spokesman Boone Vandzura said ocean conditions today were not necessarily at high risk for rip currents, but that doesn’t mean rip currents were not an issue.

The incident follows the Sunday death of a 79-year-old man found floating in the ocean near Buxton, and is the fourth ocean-related death along the Outer Banks this year. In April, 4-year-old Wesley Belisle of New Hampshire was swept away while walking on the beach in Kitty Hawk with his mom.

On Cape Hatteras National Seashore, there were seven swimming-related fatalities in 2017 and eight in 2016.

Park service officials say they are worried about the number of fatalities so early this season. The seashore is working with Dare County and town officials on a new region-wide hashtag safety campaign “#LoveTheBeachRespectTheOcean.” The Atlantic Ocean on the Outer Banks often produces powerful waves and dangerous rip currents, and plenty of information about ocean safety is available at ripcurrents.noaa.gov and weather.gov/beach.

“Every day is a good day to go to the beach, but some days aren’t day to go into the ocean,” Vandzura said.