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Soon after Kwesi Sample drowned in the Lockwood Folly Inlet on May 14, Holden Beach town leaders erected a warning sign on the east end of the island and began running messages about rip currents on their local television channel 8. Holden Beach – like Caswell Beach, Oak Island, Ocean Isle Beach and Sunset Beach – already had rip current warning signs posted at all public-access areas.
Now, with the deaths of four more people in Brunswick County being blamed on rip currents, it is clear that what has been done isn’t enough.
Rich Cerrato, mayor of Sunset Beach, where two people drowned July 3, agrees. So does Marty Cooke, vice chairman of the Brunswick County Commission.
Keep in mind that every person who dips so much as a toe into the Atlantic Ocean while standing on a Brunswick County beach must bear some responsibility for his or her own safety. Any safety measures undertaken by the county or its municipalities will have no effect if people ignore them.
It seems too many people either disregard the rip current signs that are in place or don’t fully understand the danger. “Rip current strength and speed varies,” according to the National Weather Service. “This variability makes rip currents especially dangerous to uninformed beachgoers.”
Now that is something leaders can and should address, but they have to consider the most feasible and practical options available. Would posting warning flags on the beach help? What about hiring lifeguards? How about having rental properties distribute brochures about the risk to their guests? Maybe there are other steps that can be taken, and maybe a combination of efforts is the answer. And while you cannot put a price on a human life, those of us living in Brunswick County will have to pay for these efforts to help save people from rip currents.
Regardless, they have been a long time coming, and they are way overdue.
Brunswick County should be known as a wonderful place to live and visit. Sadly, that is not how the families of Kwesi Sample, William Nicolaro, Mary Anne Galway, Mitchell Lynn McLean, and Randall Joyce will remember it.
“We can’t address those who have drowned,” Cooke wrote in an email last week to Cerrato, “but I believe we can find a comprehensive way to prevent or lower the number of future tragedies.”
We believe he’s right.