EMERALD ISLE — Mary Paige Merical, the 17-year-old Raleigh high schooler rescued from the surf in Emerald Isle April 19, was declared brain dead and her organs will be donated Saturday.

The family made the decision known Wednesday night on Facebook.

In the post on the Wake Forest Community Information Facebook page, her father, John Merical, and her aunt, Meredith Jarrell, stated that Paige is “closer to heaven.”

Mr. Merical also wrote that, “I wish I had good news for everyone. Paige fought a tough fight, but her brain was too severely damaged. We get to love on my baby for the next few days, with organ donation Saturday.”

He added that his daughter was a big supporter of organ donation.

The same information was later shared on the Emerald Isle, N.C. Facebook page, which is not the town’s official page.

In that post, Ms. Jarrell wrote that, “By next week Paige will live on thru others. Thank you so much for the outpouring of love and prayers from the entire Emerald Isle community and beyond. It means more to us than you can ever begin to imagine! Please continue to lift Paige and our family and friends in prayer as we navigate these extremely difficult days ahead.”

Ms. Merical was swimming in the ocean in the Fawn Drive area when she and a friend, Ian Lewis, got caught in a rip current.

Town emergency personnel responded just before 4 p.m. and were able to pull Ms. Merical from the surf, but she had been underwater and deprived of oxygen for some time.

She was taken to Carteret Health Care immediately, then transferred Friday night to Vidant Health in Greenville.

The body of Mr. Lewis, a Wake Forest resident, was not found until Monday morning by town police. They and others, including personnel aboard a U.S. Coast Guard vessel and a Coast Guard helicopter, searched for him Friday afternoon and evening, but the Coast Guard halted the water search around 8 p.m. because of bad weather.

Town personnel searched the beach over the weekend, then resumed early Monday morning and found Mr. Lewis before daylight in the 2800 block of the strand, far to the east of where the pair had been swimming.

Both teens were seniors at Wake Forest High School.

When the incident took place Friday, winds were 20-25 mph from the south and waves were 6 to 9 feet high, with a water temperature of 62 degrees, according to officials.

Interim Town Manager Randy Martin last Friday said town emergency personnel told him they believed this was the earliest in the year a water rescue was necessary in town in many years.

This morning, Mr. Martin said the hearts of all Emerald Isle employees and residents “go out to these two families in this time of sadness.”

Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.

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