Oak Island police investigating stolen water safety station

Oak Island police investigating stolen water safety station
Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 6:37 PM EDT
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OAK ISLAND, N.C. (WECT) - After only weeks of being on the island, one of the 68 water safety stations set up at each beach access has been vandalized and stolen.

“I was disappointed,” said Oak Island Water Rescue Chief Peter Grendze. ”It could be that individual’s loved one that could possibly be saved if that tube was still there.”

A yellow flag at the beach can sometimes mean a busy day for Oak Island Water Rescue but the newly-installed water safety stations make their lives a little easier.

“Even if we’re manned here 24/7, people on the scene can respond quicker than we can ever get there,” said Grendze.

Grendze says they’re the sprinkler systems of water safety, saving lives before help arrives. They already helped rescue one man but Monday night, one of those stations needed some help of its own.

“It looked like the entire water safety station had been stolen -- the entire post, containing both the sign and the rescue tube,” said Oak Island’s communications manager, Mike Emory.

The report came in online at about 7:45 p.m. Beach patrollers reported seeing it upright earlier that day, so police have been able to narrow down the window in which it was taken. They also believe it was cut down by a powered saw of some sort.

“[The reporter’s] main concern was that it left kind of a tall spike off of the top where the wood had splintered off and they didn’t want anyone to get hurt or injured,” said Emory.

It happened at the 69th Street beach access and was the only station destroyed. While police can’t say for sure that the innuendo associated with that number is to blame, it wouldn’t be the first incident of its kind. In fact, it’s so common that 69th Street is the only street without a traditional sign.

“Just about anywhere you go, there’s certain numbered streets and avenues that may be more subject to vandalism like that just because of the number and what some people may associate it with,” said Emory. “That’s unfortunate and it’s immature but if that’s the case, then it’s something that has to be accommodated.”

Right now, police have limited information to go on. They hope the public will come forward to help point them in the right direction.

“There are six feet of post with a two-foot tall sign and a four-foot long rescue tube, so it’s not easily concealable,” said Emory. “There’s a good chance that somebody has seen something or maybe seen somebody with materials that look like this in their vehicles or in the area.”

The sign has since been replaced; however, much like the street sign, it isn’t like the others. This sign no longer names the beach access’s location, leaving that portion blank.

“That is unfortunate because that is a critical part of our sign,” said Emory. ”When someone calls, 911, having that location on the sign gives them an immediate way to recognize where they are and report that back to the telecommunicators.”

While the thief may have a poor sense of humor, leaders say there is nothing funny about what happened.

“What would you think if that was your loved one having an issue there at that access where you took this and they have to go run to farther accesses and they’re too late?” asked Chief Grendze. “Think about that and hope you can sleep tonight.”

Wednesday was a yellow flag day in Oak Island, meaning there was a moderate risk of someone getting caught in a rip current and needing help from one of those water safety stations.