A couple of days ago, Oak Island Water Rescue rescued a child who was on a unicorn raft, hundreds of yards off the beach. We’d like to share some safety tips and photos from that event.
We all know floats have the potential to be dangerous, whether in the pool or ocean. Some beaches allow their use, while others do not. As we also know, the water itself can be dangerous.
Certain things such as a lifejacket, close adult supervision, and water survival skills help reduce the danger of water in general. So what happened yesterday?
From witness comments heard on the beach, and some witness comments we’ve read on social media, it happened suddenly when the wind pushed the raft from shallow water to deeper water in seconds. Once it was out past the waves, the big float acted like a sail and the unicorn float kept going away from the beach.
From all accounts, it sounds like there was adequate supervision in place. Witnesses said it happened in just a few seconds. Sometimes things happen so quickly that being even a few feet away isn’t close enough to prevent an emergency. Just a few seconds is all it takes.
How could this happen? Our normal, or most common, wind pattern is when the wind blows from the ocean towards shore. Winds like that keep rafts and other objects, close to shore. Yesterday there was a strong wind blowing from the beach toward the ocean. That isn’t something we see here weekly and certainly not something a once a year beach vacationer would notice (or likely comprehend the hazards of).
A strong wind gust can send a raft on the move. In fact, on days where we have a strong wind blowing toward the ocean, it is not uncommon for us to get multiple 911 dispatches for rafts blown into deeper water.
Certainly having a PFD on will help you stay afloat. Many, many kids on the beach could benefit from wearing a lifejacket at the beach, yet there’s even differing opinions on wearing lifejackets in pools or at the beach.
Lastly, at least one person attempted a swimming rescue prior to our arrival but was able to make it back to shore. That easily could have resulted in a exhausted swimmer drowning. While we did hear that a body board may have been used, by the time we arrived, it was difficult to see the float from the beach. Some have estimated it to be 1/4-1/2 mile off the beach.
The young man did an amazing job of staying calm and remaining on the float. When Boat 4491 reached him, he told the crew not to pop the unicorn float or they would get in trouble.
So thankful for all the responders who helped bring the little guy back to shore. On a side note, the entire family stopped by Station 44 last night after our meeting to say hello. It was great getting to meet them and give the little guy an official Oak Island Water Rescue hat and a stuffed animal for his little sister. They are having a rather eventful vacation in our little paradise, and we are hopeful the rest of their stay will be memorable for happier events!