Woman dies after being rescued from ocean currents off Wrightsville Beach

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Fire chief says death part of busy start to beach season that has already seen several rescues

A High Point woman died after being rescued from the ocean off Wrightsville Beach two weeks ago, part of what the town’s fire chief said has been a busy start to the 2019 beach season that has already led to several lifeguard rescues.

On Monday, April 22, Amy Williamson, 59, died after being rescued by Wrightsville Beach lifeguards, who had her on a rescue board before she fell unconscious and later died, despite several minutes of emergency rescue breaths by lifeguards, Wrightsville Beach Fire Chief Glen Rogers said.

Williamson and a man with whom she was vacationing on the island’s North End went for a swim in the ocean at about noon, in what Rogers said was the couple’s last swim before they planned to leave. The current pulled both out beyond the breakers, where some surfers noticed they were having issues and came over to help, he said.

Two members of Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue were already in the area, Rogers said, and a lieutenant in the lifeguard squad went out to assist the woman, who was being helped by a surfer.

The WBOR lieutenant reached Williamson and transferred her to a rescue board, where she was conscious and responsive, leading the lifeguard to signal to his supervisor that the woman appeared to be doing okay. However, as he was paddling her back in, she fell unconscious, and the lifeguard flagged down a nearby survey boat, which was doing measurements on Mason Inlet.

On the boat, the lifeguards performed emergency resuscitation on Williamson while the boat brought her to shore. Lifeguards continued rescue breaths on Williamson on shore, but they were not able to revive her, Rogers said.

Since she was conscious when rescuers reached her, Rogers said it’s unclear whether the death would be classified as a drowning or be attributed to another medical condition. WBOR is waiting results from the medical examiner. Rogers noted that there were two incidents in recent years where swimmers died in the water as a result of other medical conditions.

Williamson’s companion told rescuers that she was a relatively experienced swimmer. The lifeguard who was first to reach the woman put in an admirable effort to save her, Rogers said, adding that several lifeguards and emergency medical personnel responded to assist.

The rescue attempt wasn’t the first for lifeguards this year. In another April incident, a man who had limited swimming experience walked out onto the jetty on the South End, only to be swept off by a wave, requiring assistance from a jet ski.

“Everything was in her favor,” Rogers said. “We had lifeguards in the area and there was a boat that happened to be there too.We were doing everything we could.”

To help account for the active early season, Rogers said he authorized additional lifeguard patrols.

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