Looks can be deceiving; would sign prevent another tragic drowning?

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By Brian Slattery

Since I’m not from here, last week’s drowning in the Lockwood Folly Inlet was the first of its kind I’ve covered for a newspaper.

I have covered the unexpected, including a child who drowned during a quick and heavy rainstorm. He tried to save his basketball from floating away in a shallow ditch and was knocked off his feet by the fast-running water and pulled into a driveway culvert.

But that was a truly unique occurrence as even the law enforcement personnel involved in the recovery had never seen the kind of danger that can come from just a few feet of water.

Tuesday’s drowning was my first demonstration that this coast isn’t made for picture postcards, and despite the allure of the blue skies and ocean breeze, the water can become very dangerous, very quickly.

It was also an unfortunate reason for my first visit to the Lockwood Folly Inlet.

With this job, you learn something new about the place you are covering pretty much every day. But unless you get a guided tour early on, you don’t always have the chance to see the area until a story takes you there.

And it is easy to see how that inlet can disguise the danger.

On the first night of the search, even with the boats running and helicopter overhead signifying the danger, the inlet still appeared calm enough to walk into and swim across.

The Oak Island shoreline didn’t look like that far of a distance, it didn’t look forbiddingly deep and you certainly couldn’t tell that as the tide rose, there were undercurrents that could easily drag you to your death.

There is talk on Holden Beach of putting up a warning sign on the east end of the beach, near where Kwesi Sample and his friends ran into the water believing they could swim across the inlet.

To look from the shoreline on Holden Beach to Oak Island, you can picture a group of kids in their 20s believing they were young enough and strong enough to swim the distance without issue.

So I wonder if a sign with some simple warning that the water is more dangerous than it appears would have the desired effect, or if it would be overlooked as a marker of an accident that no one wants to believe could happen to them, especially under a bright blue sky on a sunny beach.


Brian Slattery is a staff writer for The Brunswick Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or bslattery@brunswickbeacon.com.