Diver wins Person of the Year for brave response during shooting incident

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When a 600-pound boat propeller needed to be replaced, not many divers in the region knew how to accomplish the task. But local diver Chris Wilshire devised a pulley system that allowed him and a helper to successfully mount the propeller to the boat.

“No one knows how he did it,” said Wilshire’s wife, Jamie. “If there’s ever a problem, all our friends call Chris, they know he’ll know how to figure it out.”

Problem solving is one of Wilshire’s qualities. And for the problem he solved on April 28, 2016, in Wrightsville Beach, Wilshire is the 2016 Lumina News Person of the Year. On that Thursday afternoon at Wrightsville Marina, Wilshire recognized a dangerous situation and took immediate action that helped protect both the people and the property at the marina.

At about 2:30 p.m., the typically calm marina suddenly came under gunfire when two young men were firing a 30-calibre rifle for target practice on a nearby spoil island. The brush and trees weren’t enough to stop the high-powered rounds from coming into the marina, hitting boats and striking dangerously close to people.

Wilshire, a former Marine with two tours of duty in Afghanistan, knew how close the rounds were and took action, swimming 100 yards under the gunfire to confront the shooters and end the situation. One man was charged for damaging property. Wilshire said neither understood the danger of what they thought was simply target practice.

“It was a very busy area and I would have hoped that anyone would have done it,” Wilshire said after receiving the accolade.

The story was one of Lumina News’ most popular of 2016, as readers rushed to Facebook to express their praise for Wilshire’s actions. Jamie Wilshire noted it created some fame for him around town.

“All my girlfriends said, ‘He is so brave,’” she said. “He’s just that type of guy that will jump into any situation and not think twice. He knew what to do.”

Like a firefighter, police officer or EMT, Wilshire sprang into action to help end a dangerous threat to ordinary people. Wilshire isn’t an employee of the town, or even a resident, but his actions were some of the most positive to impact the town.

“He’s definitely the kind of guy you want on your side,” said Jeff Saunders, who employs Wilshire as a diver.

Originally from West Virginia, Wilshire and Jamie, former high school sweethearts, live in Wilmington with their three sons: Aidan, 13, Case, 7, and Eason, 4. The family has been here for more than a decade, attracted by the outdoor lifestyles and the strong community. While diving is his passion, Wilshire said hunting, fishing and skiing are some of his other favorite pastimes, noting that the mountains are the only other place he’d like to live outside of this area.

Wilshire said he’s had a passion for diving all his life, with Jaime noting there are pictures of him as a child in the pool with a scuba tank. He plans to introduce his sons to diving, as Aidan has already had a “really fun” experience breathing through a regulator.

“They’ll definitely dive at some point,” he said of his sons.

Wilshire worked as a diver in the Marine Corps and one day wants to expand his service into his own diving business while continuing to make roots in the community.

“Wrightsville Beach is a big, close-knit community and it’s great to be a part of it,” he said.

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