‘I’m still in shock, I don’t know how to process it:’ Family remembers man who died in Oak Island on Saturday

A Family is remembering their loved one who died while swimming at a North Carolina beach over Memorial Day weekend. (Source: WECT)
Published: May. 30, 2022 at 10:10 PM EDT
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OAK ISLAND, N.C. (WECT) - Jacob Martin and his family had been planning a family vacation over Memorial Day to Oak Island for weeks, until it took a tragic turn.

Oak Island Water Rescue got a call on Saturday afternoon about a man struggling in the water near the West 23rd beach access. When they arrived at the scene, nurses who happened to be on the beach had already started CPR on Jacob Martin, after a witness had pulled him out of the water.

“This individual had as good a chance as anything,” said Oak Island Water Rescue Chief Pete Grendze. “I know there were a couple of nurses there, and they were doing very effective CPR when we arrived on the scene. And that’s huge.”

Martin’s mom Katrina says, he had already defied the odds once in his life, and that he brightened up every room he stepped foot in.

“When he was 12, he was hit by a paint van and had severe injury to his brain,” she said. “And they told us that he would never survive. If he did, he’d be a vegetable. And he proved everybody wrong.”

She spent weeks planning the family trip, and Martin drove down from West Virginia with his kids and grandkids to take part in it.

“We got here Friday night, and I took videos of us,” his mom said. “The family cooking, singing, and I got everybody in it. And I was just so thankful. I’m still in shock, I don’t know how to process it. Leaving without him, it’s killing me. It’s really, really killing me.”

Yellow flags were flying at the beach at Oak Island on Saturday, meaning there was a moderate risk for rip currents. Jacob’s mom believes that’s what took his life.

She hopes by sharing their tragic story, another family won’t have to go through the pain they are in right now.

“If it can happen to my kid, it can definitely happen to yours,” she said. “It can happen to, even an adult. He could swim, and no one even really thought about it, you know? So, it is very dangerous, and it is a real threat. And you need to take it seriously.”

Ocean Rescue Chief Pete Grendze couldn’t confirm if a rip current was the cause of Martin’s death, but he did say an autopsy is being done to find out the cause of his death and give his family some closure.

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