According to police, Mitchell Mclean, the chief district court judge for Wilkes, Ashe, Alleghany and Yadkin counties, died on Wednesday trying to save a woman who was caught up in a rip tide at Sunset Beach. Mclean, 54, was a law school graduate from Wake Forest University and had practiced law since 1986. He served as district court judge for fifteen years.
The woman who drowned was Mary Ann Galway. Authorities say her husband, Edward John Galway, was treated at the hospital and later released
According to a Washington Post article Judge Mclean was on vacation with his family when Mrs. Galway began to struggle after being caught up in a rip current. Her husband attempted to help but was also taken up in the current.
“Upon arrival, two of those individuals were in cardiac arrest on the shore. The other was unconscious and unresponsive,” Brunswick County Emergency Management Director, Anthony Marzano, told The Star-News.
Sadly, this was not the only tragedy that took place on the North Carolina Coast over the Fourth of July weekend due to rip currents. William Nicalaro, 72, of Palm Harbor, Florida, was pronounced dead after having drowned due to strong currents.
The National Weather Service says that Rip currents are strong narrow currents moving away from shore. The strongest rip currents can attain speeds reaching 8feet per second; this is faster than an Olympic swimmer can sprint! On average, more people die every year from rip currents than from shark attacks or lightening. According to the United States Lifesaving Association, 80 percent of surf beach rescues are attributed to rip currents, and more than 100 people die annually from drowning in rip currents.
When going to the beach, the National Weather Service recommends swimming in a lifeguard protected area with other people around and to make sure you stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties, because rip currents often exist alongside these structures.
If caught up in a rip current, remain calm and do not fight the current. If possible, swim out of the current in the direction of the shoreline. If you are unable to get out, calmly float or tread water. For more information and tips on how to remain safe at the beach go to the link below.