Strong rip currents lead to 10 ocean rescues at Wrightsville Beach

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC (WECT) - The calendar says it's not summer just yet, but lifeguards are working to keep swimmers safe at the beach.

Ocean rescue crews made 10 rescues due to rip currents at Wrightsville Beach Wednesday. Fifteen ocean rescues were also made in Myrtle Beach.

Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue says lifeguards are there to keep beachgoers safe, but that everyone needs to be proactive in their own safety.

"When you come out (to the beach), if you have any questions about the water, go to a lifeguard and ask them," Jon Mooney with Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue said. "Ask, 'Are there any dangers? Are there rip currents? Have you noticed anything? Do you have any recommendations for me or my family?'"

Checking the flags upon arriving at the beach is key. That is the first alert lifeguards will give you about any rip current risk.

Double red flags indicate water is closed to the public. A single red flag indicates high hazard. A yellow flag signifies a medium hazard and green represents low hazard. A purple flag indicates dangerous marine life.

Beachgoer McKenzie Manthei spent Wednesday at Wrightsville Beach. She witnessed how quickly the currents can change.

"So when we first got here, the flags were yellow and it wasn't bad," Manthei said. "Like that the flags were red and the current underneath was just unbearable. We tried to go out there with a float and we couldn't even do that."

The United States Lifesaving Association estimates at least 100 people die every year from rip currents, which lead to 80 percent of beach rescues and are the reason lifeguards say you should always swim in front of a stand.

"Always swim in front of a lifeguard," Mooney said. "Try to stay in front of the guards. If you can see them, they can see you and that's their job is to help you and they'll be there to do that."

Rip currents don't just pose a risk to children. Even longtime swimmers like Manthei could not handle Wednesday's ocean conditions.

"I saw children where I was like, 'Oh my gosh. Where are their moms? Do they know what's going on?' That current under there is scary," she said.

Ocean rescue said the most important lessons are to be proactive and aware.

"Don't just go blindly into the ocean and assume everything will work out well," Mooney said. "It's definitely not a swimming pool."

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