Big floats create big headaches for water rescue

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OAK ISLAND, NC (WWAY) — If you’ve been at the beach or out on the water this summer, you may have seen some of those giant floats that seem to be gaining popularity. They may be fun, but they’re also creating headaches for some water rescue teams.

There were four 911 calls made within two hours in Oak Island on Sunday about floats that drifted out to sea.

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“There’s a raft that’s way out past the pier and there’s two people it and they’ve got some people going out on surfboards trying to get them and I don’t know if it’s going to go good,” said one.

“It looks like maybe somebody’s on it and they’re flipping it upside down over and over like maybe they might be in trouble,” said another.

All of these floats were found to be empty.



Campbell Woody, who pushes an Italian ice cart on the beach, said he saw one of the attempted rescues.

“I saw several cop cars come driving over the beach access looking for inflatables that had blown away. Some people called in thinking they were kids riding on them, and that they had blown out to sea and couldn’t get back.”

Inflatable tubes and rafts on the beach are nothing new, but these larger inflatables are becoming more common and they’re not as easy to control.

“Once they get in the water and get out of reach, the sky’s the limit as how far they’re going to go before you can’t catch them again,” said Oak Island Water Rescue Assistant Chief Tony Young.

Young says unlike regular tubes and rafts, it’s not easy to see if a person is on the float.

“When that happens, people will often call 911. They’ll see a raft and they’re not sure if there’s a person on board or not,” said Young.

Leah Eshelman, who recently bought a yellow duck inflatable, says she has a simple solution to keep it in place.

“I’ve heard a lot of people got dragged out to sea and 911 calls, and we actually went to Walmart the other day and bought an anchor for it and a 50 foot rope, so we anchor it down and make sure we don’t get pulled out,” said Eschelman.

Young says he does not want to discourage anyone from calling 911 in case there is a real emergency, he just wants inflatable owners to be more careful.