Officials warn of dangers off North Topsail shores after weekend drowning
NORTH TOPSAIL BEACH, N.C. (WITN) - Search efforts for the body of 39-year-old Antwaun Jackson continued Tuesday off the North Topsail Beach shoreline.
Jackson was swept out to sea Saturday after saving a child caught in a rip current. After saving the child, officials said Jackson began to struggle in the water himself.
Fire crews say an inlet current, rip current, high tide, and a more than 30-foot drop-off of water all meet just a few feet away from the shoreline. Officials say this area of water has been nicknamed “The Cut” and they are warning anyone thinking about going out for a swim to think twice.
“It’s an absorbent amount of force against them and it’ll just exhaust them,” Town of North Topsail Beach Fire Chief Chad Soward said when describing the fast-moving water conditions.
The area of water just off the northern shore of North Topsail Beach is where law enforcement says 39-year-old Antwaun Jackson began to struggle after swimming out to save a child.
“It drops off about 15 feet out, it drops off to about 30 feet so I mean it’s just a channel running out into the ocean when the tide’s falling,” Soward continued.
Officials say the pressure system pushes water in the area to speeds as fast as 8 mph when calm. And, when factored with high tide conditions this week, that speed can be nearly impossible to escape for even the strongest of swimmers.
“A lot of people treat it like a lazy river because it moves so fast...” Soward said. “People just need to realize that there’s 30 foot deep right there, it’s not a lazy river.”
Town officials explained that warning signs are at every public access on the north end of the beach.
“We try to alert people to the dangers here, knowing educating yourself and following the signage. It’s certainly a dangerous area, especially if you’re not familiar with it,” Town Manager Alice Derian said.
With 12 miles of beach, no full time lifeguards, and now a man lost at sea, the town is now looking at what more can be done to prevent another fatal accident.
“It would be difficult, and right now there is a shortage of lifeguards which would be another issue,” Derian said. “...Makes you take a step back and really look at what the current operations are and if there’s anything that we could do to certainly avoid such a tragedy in the future.”
“Unfortunately, we lost a life because of this, no fault of his own, he was trying to rescue his kid,” Soward said.
Police Chief William Younginer says after Tuesday, they will downsize the search efforts and the fire department will send out smaller units to patrol the beach strand over the course of the week.
The North Topsail Beach Fire Department says that although lifeguards are not on the beach full time, several firemen patrol the north end of the beach strand regularly because of the shore drop-off and fast-moving water-conditions.
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