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Brunswick County drownings leave people shaken up


OCEAN ISLE BEACH, NC (WWAY) -- Hundreds of people are on the beaches and in the ocean celebrating Independence Day, but Wednesdays drownings still have people pretty shaken up.

Two of three swimmers pulled from the ocean at Sunset Beach Wednesday afternoon have died, including a North Carolina judge.

Brunswick County Emergency Services Director Anthony Marzano says a call came in about three people in distress in the water at about 3:13 p.m.

By the time emergency crews arrived, all three were out of the water, but two of the swimmers were unresponsive, Marzano said. All three were taken to the hospital.

Mitchell McLean, 54, was pronounced dead. He served as Chief District Court Judge for the 23rd Judicial District, which includes Wilkes, Ashe, Alleghany and Yadkin counties.

Mary Anne Galway, of Waxhaw was airlifted to New Hanover Regional where she was also pronounced dead. A third victim, Galway's husband, was treated and released from the hospital.

In all, three drownings were reported Wednesday in Brunswick County. A 72-year-old man from Florida drowned a few hours earlier just up the coast in Ocean Isle Beach.

People we spoke too Thursday say they are still worried about their children getting in the water.

”We were here yesterday when the gentleman down on the beach drowned. It’s just been scary because the kids go out just knee deep. It’s scary that were here and we don’t have any lifeguards here on Ocean Isle Beach,” said Johann Wheatley.

(Photo courtesy:

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.


I was on the beach yesterday

I was on the beach yesterday during this tragic time and my heart broke for the families.. but i want to Thank all those who bravely went into the water to get these people and all those who continued to give CPR until medical personal arrived.. I too do not understand how Brunswick county who is extremely wealthy in tax dollars cannot put lifeguards on our beautiful Sunset Beach... My prayers are with these families May GOD smother you with his Great Love and Comfort

Beach Drownings

I agree, the events of yesterday were a terrible tragedy and my heart goes out to all of the victims families... I would also like to offer a great THANK YOU to all of the Emergency Responders who provided aid; particularly, the community's Volunteer Rescue Service Members whose personal donation of time and service are rarely recognized...

PLEASE, observe the water and beach erosion conditions in your area prior to entering the ocean. If you are unsure of the areas conditions, OR your capacity for "self rescue", please don't go past your knees...

Stay safe, RKM 3

were Judge McLean's wife and

were Judge McLean's wife and boys with him on the beach? My heart breaks for all of them. This was in character for Mitch as he was an extremely caring person.


Sad set of circumstances.

Wilmington Observer

Life Guards

Every beach should have a Life Guard station with a Lookout Platform, two Rescue Swimmers (min), Surfboat, and Rescue Buoy. The duties would not only rescue a troubled swimmer but to keep swimmers from getting in trouble in the first place. Control the swimmers into an area away from adverse currents and if the sea warrants it dispatch the boat (2 men) and patrol the surf area beyond the breakers and a third guard on the beach. If the surf gets to testy give the Lifeguards the authority to close the beach or Knee Deep if conditions can warrant it.

How about injecting a little

How about injecting a little common sense and personal responsibility into being able to access the beach's, every beach has an overstaffed police force that could be warning beach goers of the dangers.

Sounds like...

You either hold a public office or you plan to run for one. Do you have an idea of what that would cost? This was a very tragic day for these three folks and there families. But we, as individuals, have to be responsible for the choices we make. We as a society can't afford to pay to avoid every possible tragedy that may happen. In the real world, accidents happen. I'm sure this day started as an innocent day at the beach. It's a shame that it had to end tragically.

A much better soultion would

A much better soultion would be to stay out of the ocean except to wade in shallow water, unless you have gills, scales and fins, that is.

I'm with you

My son and I never go more than about thigh deep. The incoming waves are plenty. It astounds me to see how many parents let their young children go play in the water while they're halfway up the beach.

Life Guards

I totally agree that Life Guard Stations with Look out Platforms should be on our beaches. Many times it's too late by the time emergency personnel arrive to save or rescue the victims. Time is the essence in these situations.

Easy to say if you don't have to pay for it

Are you a taxpayer in Sunset Beach? I live here, and I'm not interested in paying more taxes to provide yet another resource for the tourists. We don't need to pay for life guard stations, lookout platforms, yadda yadda. The locals know better than to swim during rip current alerts -- which have been posted for the last four days.

wooow sad

Oh wow . Seriously??? Would you rethink what you just said if it had been a child lpst much less a toddler. Yes i agree people should be more aware but , speaking from experience of almost losing my life years ago, still needs to be a life gaurd i mean at least one every mile or so. Cause think about it.. is your money worth more than a human life? Think that over because God notes the greedy. He notes all.

Your a jack hole

You cheap S.O.B. greedy rich bastards like you worry more about your wallets than saving lives.. you make me sick..

The recent drownings on all

The recent drownings on all of the Carolina beaches is a terrible tragedy. Hopefully level heads will prevail in deciding on both a rational and practical solution. I believe that individuals definitely have to be responsible for their actions. However, where warnings are not clearly visible, perhaps they could be added - For example, a large flag of some sort hanging from the pier at Sunset Beach. Town residents would know what it signifies and renters could be informed upon arrival as well. Based on the data currently available, it would not appear that having lifeguards on every beach is the most rational or practical solution. See the info below. Deaths occur when there are lifeguards as well. I enjoy Sunset Beach beacause there are no lifeguards, because there are no platforms interrupting the skyline, the beautiful view, etc. It was enough of a travesty when they built the ugly bridge, I hope they don't ruin the beautiful beach as well.

"Ten North Carolina and South Carolina beaches, including Nags Head, Wrightsville, Kure and Kill Devil, reported 3,875 rip current rescues from 2010 to 2012. Rip currents drowned three people on unguarded beaches and two on guarded beaches during that time, data show. More than 34 million people attended those beaches over the three years."

Drownings at Sunset Beach

I own a home on Sunset Beach and was nearby when these two drownings occurred on Wedneday. I feel our town council need to take steps to help prevent drowning tragedies. Education on rip tides need to be shared with our guests. A flag system needs to be utilized on the beach to warn swimmers of the danger. Our four wheelers need to be replaced with mobile life guards whose job is to protect lives and not issuing town citations. EMS and motorized rescue boats need to be kept on the island during busy holiday week. As a Brunswick County tax payer I am willing to pay more in taxes to finance this service which would save lives. The tax dollars that our out of town guests spend at our beaches should be considered. We have a beautiful asset. Let's protect it and its people.

How about the "guests"

How about the "guests" educate themselves before they enter the water in an area where they swim at their own risk? There is such a thing as personal responsibility. It isn't even a county issue. It is something that is handled by the beach municipalities. The cost would be passed on to everyone who lives within those town limits and not everyone who lives in the town limits have the spare change just lying around to pay for a tax hike.

Amen! I've been a lifeguard

I've been a lifeguard for 36 years and still guard and know the dangers of the ocean. Use your resources to better save lives as the previous post suggests.. I also live here in Sunset. Put the atv's to better use!

Where do you find the

Where do you find the postings about rip tides for the day? Thanks

Rip current statements

We try to include such information in our beach and boating forecast each day. You can also download our StormTrack3 mobile app.

You can also check the National Weather Service in Wilmington at If necessary, it will post a Rip Current Statement, as it has today, with the information.

News Content Manager
WWAY NewsChannel 3

The National Weather Service

The National Weather Service in Wilmington, NC issues a surf zone forecast daily for all the Cape Fear and Grand Strand beaches. This forecast includes the rip current risk for all of our local beaches. Ocean rescue patrols use this forecast when deciding what flags to fly at the beach each day. Just bookmark these pages and you can easily access the daily rip current forecast:

Rip Current Graphic:
Rip Current Text Forecast:


you could be responsible and know your abilities!

What an Extremely

What an Extremely Insensitive comment!!!!

Ocean isle and sunset beach

Your comment is completely disrespectful! This is someone's family your speaking of. One of the victims is a very close friend of our family. They have spent the Fourth of July on the NC coast for the past 20 years and unfortunately this year the currents overtook the swimmers. I pray for comfort for all the victims and families as they struggle through the weeks and years to come!

Agreed. I'm friends of one

Agreed. I'm friends of one of the families, too, and from how I heard it told, they WERE just wading in shallow water. People don't seem to appreciate just how strong a riptide can be, and even if you're standing in shallow water, it can sweep you away if the conditions are just right. My heart breaks for the families of the victims, and insensitive comments like "they should have known better" are just unnecessary and cruel.

Drownings on Sunset Beach, NC

Prayers for the families and their losses. Judge Mitchell served NC well and will be missed.

Thoughts and prayers for the

Thoughts and prayers for the families and friends and anyone else
who witnessed these horrible events.

I live here and think we could find a way to have lifeguards
at these family beaches....There's an abundance of rental agencies
who could pool together and put life guards in place if our county
could not find the means to offer this service. Even a half of percent
on rental tax income could help.......these are only suggestions and
not meant to be open season on the messenger

rip tide drownings

I was so shocked and saddened to hear about Mary Ann Galway. What a beautiful caring woman with such a positive attitude and full of life. My children go to the elementary school she worked at and she was always so sincere and quick to help with any needs. My heart goes out to her family, especially her husband. Rip tides are scary. I grew up swimming at Long Island beaches and have always heard that you can get pulled out standing in 8 inches of water when there is a rip tide. We have been vacationing in Holden Beach for a number of years now. I would be fine paying an extra fee on top of our rental fee for safety measures such as a flag system and life guards somehow monitoring the beaches. Prayers for all involved.

Thank you for your kind

Thank you for your kind words about my sister Maryanne. She was a beautiful kind loving person, and I aspire to be like her. she was not a risk taker and would not put herself in a situation she could not control. This was something that came on very fast, and unfortunately she lost her life and I lost my sister, my friend.