WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY)– It’s a question that comes up this time of year. How safe are our beaches?
After several drownings at Brunswick County beaches in 2013, lifeguards became a hot topic. But, the town never implemented them.
“I love it. I absolutely love it,” said Vinny Justino, who spends his days in retirement watching over Sunset Beach.
He said it’s mostly about fun, but not all the time.
“Especially when people don’t follow the rules, you gotta tell them that,” Justino said, “You know incidents happen.”
Incidents like the one Tuesday, when a woman became unresponsive in the water and later died. But Justino isn’t a lifeguard. In fact, there aren’t any lifeguards at Sunset Beach.
“If there’s a problem out there, obviously we call the ambulance, you know, call the EMTs,” Justino said.
“It’s important,” said Louis Devita, Sunset Beach’s Mayor Pro Tem. “Tourism is important and the safety of our tourists is important. But, there’s no guarantee that lifeguards on the beach are going to make any difference at all.”
Last year, town leaders said lifeguards are too expensive, and Sunset Beach’s attorneys decided lifeguards come with their own risk.
“We increase the liability because people assume that they are safe,” Devita said, meaning that if something happened it would be easier to sue. The town just didn’t want the added risk lifeguards could bring.
“We thought, through education and people swimming the buddy way that we recommend, they would go in the water and they would be safe,” Devita said.
While this recent incident most likely did not involve rip currents, Devita said they’re paying close attention to see if they should look at possible safety changes once again.