UNCW student dies while surfing at Wrightsville Beach

Reported by Claire Simms - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email
Updated by Peter Smelser - email

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC (WECT) - A student from UNCW died while surfing with a group of friends at Wrightsville Beach Friday afternoon.

18-year-old John Edward Sackett of Annapolis, MD was possibly struck by lightning when a thunderstorm suddenly approached.

"The individual was swimming during a thunderstorm, which is highly dangerous and unfortunately, it turned into tragedy this time," said Dave Baker of Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue.

Rescue crews searched for teen for more than an hour and a half before a nurse from Raleigh saw his body and pulled him ashore.

Authorities transported him to New Hanover Regional Medical Center where emergency crews tried to revive Sackett.

"The entire campus community is deeply saddened by this loss of a member of the UNCW family," said UNCW Chancellor Rosemary DePaolo in a statement.  "Our thoughts and prayers go out to John's family and friends during this very difficult time."

The UNCW Counseling Center will offer supportive services to students who may need grief counseling.

The cause of death is undetermined at this time.

Lifeguards remind swimmers to get out of water and head indoors if they see lightning or hear thunder.

"Lightening is very dangerous," said Baker. "If you hear it, definitely fear it. If you see it, flee it. It can be very tragic and dangerous."

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