Durham man dies while trying to rescue children off Wrightsville Beach

Wrightsville beach drowning

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, N.C. (WECT) - A Durham man died while trying to rescue children in the water off Wrightsville Beach on Sunday.

According to town officials, emergency workers were unable to resuscitate 35-year-old Johnny Lee Vann Jr. after he was pulled from the water.

Emergency crews were dispatched to the vicinity of Beach Access 43 shortly after 4 p.m.

Eyewitnesses told officials that Vann was attempting to rescue several of his children from the water when he began to experience trouble.

Andre Nel said he witnessed the drowning.

“It was horrible,” Nel said. “It was a horrible scene going on here. We had this gentleman lying on the ground and people screaming and this young child that he went to go and save was screaming the whole time, ‘That’s my daddy!’ We had my little daughter and a nephew of hers and I’ve got the chills right now just thinking of it.”

Nel said the water near Beach Access 43 is dangerous with waves going over the jetty combined with the water coming in causing strong currents.

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