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Brunswick County beaches have no life guards, raises concerns amid deadly currents (Photo: Kirsten Gutierrez/WWAY News)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — With summer now in full swing, people from all over are visiting area beaches for some fun in the sun. However, mother nature can be deadly and so far this month four people have died in rip currents.

It is a dangerous reality that has many people heading to Brunswick County beaches concerned, especially with no lifeguards on site.

“I had no idea that there wasn’t any lifeguards on this beach,” visitor, Savannah Hughes said.

There are no lifeguards on any beaches in Brunswick or Pender counties, including Holden Beach where many visitors and residents are worried for their children’s safety.

“I have pros and cons on it really. Sometimes I think we need them and sometimes maybe not. But most of the time I really think that there should be some kind of security,” resident, James McGrane said.

With deadly rip currents north of us, killing two people in Atlantic Beach and two in Emerald Isle, Hughes says there needs to be a lifeguard present.

“The town should definitely have lifeguards on every beach,” Hughes said. “Because I don’t know what to do, I don’t have a clue. It makes me very nervous.”

Holden Beach Town Manager David Hewett says the topic of lifeguards have been discussed before, but there is just not enough of a demand.

“Circumstances at Holden Beach are very safe. And, you know, we’re known as a family beach and the service for lifeguards isn’t needed,” Hewett said.

Hewett adds rip currents are not as common in the area compared to Wrightsville Beach.

“Although there are some that happen from time to time, and as always those are you know, present their own set of challenges and dangers. But for the most part the beaches in South Brunswick anyway are very safe,” Hewett said.

However, McGrane can testify otherwise. Five years ago McGrane saved his grandchildren before being pulled out to sea by a rip current at Holden Beach.

“We were out wading and it just happened,” McGrane said. “It wasn’t rough that day. You know, seemingly rough or we wouldn’t have been out there with the grandchildren.”

It was a situation that could have taken a turn for the worse, especially with no one out there to help.

“In the position I was in I would have definitely needed a lifeguard at that time. Cause it could have came out a different away, we don’t know. We were just, like I said fortunate,” McGrane said.

McGrane says the town should have lifeguards on duty at all times, but at the very least for holidays when the beaches are packed.

Experts say if you are caught in a rip current always try to remain calm, swim parallel to the shore and let the wave push you in. If you see someone who needs help call 911 first, but if you are on an unguarded beach and have to help, be sure to bring a flotation device with you.

Another suggestion, always check the water conditions for the beach plan on visiting. To find out that information, click here.


Comment on this Story

  • 58thStreetSurfer

    I shock me too. But I was an electrician for over 40 years. That being said, as a Coast Guard veteran, I know it is not possible to save everyone. Even beaches with lifeguards have drownings. High Rock Lake had a drowning this week. If a beach town is required to have lifeguards, should the same law apply to lakes? Cape Hatteras or Cape Lookout? Towns are few and far between, lifeguards on undeveloped beaches?

  • Elizabeth

    If you can’t swim, don’t go in!

    I almost drowned at Atlantic Beach as a child ( a wave pulled me under), and I have been terrified to go anywhere near the water since. I won’t even go snorkling. The beaches here have far too many sudden drop offs and sudden rip currents. It just isn’t worth it, in my opinion.

  • 58thStreetSurfer

    Oak Island is over twelve miles long. How many lifeguards would be needed to patrol a beach that long? People also drown at beaches WITH lifeguards.

  • Catz Catz

    Bump that number up to five, there was just one at Holden beach

    • Steve Smith

      Yes there was, and also one on a beach that had “Lifeguards”

  • Guest2020

    This seems to come up every summer. Plain and simple, where there are no lifeguards at any kind of body of water, you swim at your own risk.

  • Heimie Schmelter

    As a start, provide parking decals for the locals at a minimal and reasonable price, charge the tourists reasonable parking fees. The tourists are the meat and potatoes of sustaining our beach business funding. without them everyone can just close up shop. Tourists will seek an attractive, well kept beach, with safety such as lifeguards to help protect their children. Having to pay a little extra won’t hold them back one bit! All of the popular beaches that are decent rely on this revenue and are compelled to provide safety for all that visit. If you can’t “afford” seasonal lifeguards, you must REALLY be struggling with your beach re-nourishment and inlet dredging programs! That’s a town management problem! Elect wisely!

    • Bryan Leonard

      Take that Pay to Play nonsense to another state’s beach. We do not want it here. Wrightsville Beach used to be a really enjoyable beach, but now the town is just greedy and over charges for parking which eventually happens to each beach that starts charging for parking. One of the things that draws people here is because you are not charged for everything little thing you do,

      • Heimie Schmelter

        It isn’t “pay to play”, it’s called public safety. I agree with you that WB is over the top with fees that are charged, but they take everything to the max. None-the-less, WB has 5 times the tourism that ANY Brunswick county beach has and it isn’t slowing down.
        Try not to get yourself confused here, having to institute a few minor tourist related fees in order to have them feel comfortable visiting swimming at your beaches isn’t a bad thing and certainly isn’t gouging anyone due to greed. Lifeguard services require money. If you want to remain as a podunk beach town with 3 shops, one street and a hot dog stand, then so be it, the tourists will go elsewhere while the illegal Hispanics will flood there seeking your “free” stuff.

      • Bryan Leonard

        It is all about revenue, and sure the average town council member is going to give the “public safety” spiel as usual. Many locals and tourists enjoy the laid back setting of our beach towns which attracts them here because there are not many areas like it left on the east coast. We do not want to become just a tourist based commercialized beach area. Just look to our neighbor just to the south Myrtle Beach where most jobs are low income, seasonal jobs and just draws in a bunch of riff-raff.

    • 58thStreetSurfer

      A great many of the people on the beach at Oak Island rent houses and WALK to the beach. They would not pay a parking fee.

    • Jessica Langley

      Ask Jersey Beaches how that goes? They have the worst beaches and you PAY to go them.. The “revenue” would be said to go to the beaches then get wasted some where else… its a money grab… DON’T go in if you can’t swim.

      • Heimie Schmelter

        Comparing Brunswick county beaches to “Joisee” beaches is ludicrous. They charge for everything. NOTHING is free in today’s world, except for the lazy and the illegal.
        Even if you can swim, good luck on getting out of that next rip when it grabs you and takes you away. Nobody will hear you screaming!

    • Steve Smith

      We already have local parking decals and designated parking.
      Try not to get confused here, tourist are always going to go to the beach, always have always will. No one is going to close up shop. Last I saw more shops are opening.
      NO community is “compelled” to provide safety for a visit. Signs are placed warning of rips and how to escape, you look you just do not read. All beaches struggle with beach nourishment, its a way of life, nothing special there, has nothing to do with providing safety or not.

  • Bryan Leonard

    We like our free beaches in Brunswick County and Pender county, If you don’t feel safe then don’t go in the water plain and simple. The last thing we want is to see is Brunsco Beaches end up like Wrightsville beach where it’s $2.50 an hour to park.

    • 58thStreetSurfer

      Or Seaside Heights, where you pay to park then buy a permit to get on the actual beach.

    • Emmett Sharon

      If you don’t think your life, or someone in your family’s life, is worth $15-$25 (for a days parking), then go ahead and swim in an unprotected surf.
      Just tell your kids they’re not worth it.

      • Catz Catz

        Or tell your kids to not swim into riptides, what you do if you get caught in one, and watch your kids instead of checking your Instagram account

      • Bryan Leonard

        I have thank you, my entire life, swam in those waters just like my parents and their family before them. And I was taught at a very young age how to swim and how to avoid rip currents and swim out of them. Which goes back to what I said, use judgement, if you don’t feel comfortable then stay out.

      • Heimie Schmelter

        What a hero kid you are! I’m surprised you didn’t make it as a Olympiad swimmer! Not only will the tourists stay out, they’ll probably just stay away when they hear of local attitudes like yours! With statements like you just made, you are evidently from WB.

  • 58thStreetSurfer

    North Carolina has 301 miles of coastline. Do people really think it is possible to have lifeguard protection on 301 mile of coast? Also, many miles of NC coast are not suitable for swimming. People really need to “know before they go”. AND PLEASE, PUT YOUR CELLPHONE DOWN AND WATCH YOUR CHILDREN! (Like that’s going to happen. :-( )

  • Steve Smith

    We already pay taxes far in excess due to sewer and other expenses. Those on fixed incomes are being forced out of oak island If you want lfeguards you pay for them!

    • Heimie Schmelter

      Everyone that lives at the beach pays more, it’s simply the price we all have to pay. We pay more for low quality water. more for sewer, get doubled up on taxes and the insurance companies constantly have one of their hands around our throats and the other in our pockets. If you’re on a fixed income that doesn’t afford you to live the beach lifestyle, you can get a premium price for your beach property right now and live in Burgaw or Rocky Point for a lot less. Sometimes changes have to be made.

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