EMERALD ISLE — Search and recovery efforts by town personnel continued Saturday for 18-year-old Wake Forest resident Ian Frazier Lewis, believed to be lost in the ocean Friday afternoon, Interim Town Manager Randy Martin said.
The search was suspended around 8 p.m. Friday night due to bad weather.
Mr. Martin said Saturday morning he had no word on the condition of a second person involved in the incident, 17-year-old Mary Paige Merical of Raleigh.
She was rescued, transported to Carteret Health Care and then transferred Friday night to Vidant Health in Greenville.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Coast Guard’s 5th District in Portsmouth, Va., said Saturday there were no immediate plans to resume the search for Mr. Lewis, but Mr. Martin said town personnel were working the beach Saturday morning.
“We’re not out on the water, and won’t be unless we spot something,” Mr. Martin said at 10 a.m. “We’re also dealing with all the people who are coming out on the beach this morning. We’re hoping they will stay out of the water or at least monitor conditions very closely.”
When the distress call went out Friday, winds were 20-25 mph from the south and waves were 6-9 feet high, with a water temperature of 62 degrees, according to officials.
Saturday morning, the ocean was still rough and winds were 22 miles per hour from the west-southwest. The National Weather Service said the water temperature at the Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier was 61 degrees, and a beach hazard statement was in place, recommending people stay out of the water.
In a press release issued a little after 6:30 p.m. Friday, Police Chief Tony Reese confirmed the distress call came in around 3:50 p.m. for two swimmers off the 9300 block of the beach strand, in the Fawn Drive-Ocean Drive area.
“Emerald Isle Police, Fire and EMS personnel responded, and once on scene were advised by witnesses that there were two swimmers in the water that were no longer visible,” Chief Reese wrote in the release.
“Shortly after arriving on scene, Emerald Isle Fire Department personnel were able to locate and pull Ms. Merical from the surf, where life-saving efforts were started immediately,” the chief added.
“Ms. Merical was transported to Carteret (Health Care) by emergency medical services,” he said.
Search efforts until 8 p.m. involved town personnel, a U.S. Coast Guard cutter from the Fort Macon station and a helicopter from the Coast Guard station in Elizabeth City.
Red warning flags were up at beach access locations at the time and there were no lifeguards on the beach, as that service does not begin until roughly Memorial Day weekend.
Through the 2017 tourist season, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the town had a lifeguard at the Eastern Ocean Regional Access and at the Western Ocean Regional Access on elevated stands and three other lifeguards on the beach, roving the strand on vehicles.
Last year, in the wake of the drownings of two Goldsboro teens in June 2017, the town added one more rover.
However, there were two more drownings, one July 2, 2018, and one Aug. 5, 2018, plus a period of about two weeks when persistent riptides necessitated a rash of water rescue calls that eventually exceeded 60 and involved upwards of 80 people.
For one day, Aug. 5, 2018, before conditions improved, the town banned ocean swimming and threatened $100 fines for anyone who disobeyed.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.