Parents raise awareness after losing daughter to rip current


LELAND, NC (WWAY) —  Nearly three months after a Raleigh couple lost their only child to a rip current, they’re traveling the state to raise awareness about safety.

John and Suzi Merical say their 17-year-old daughter Paige was a strong swimmer, and they never worried about her being in the ocean. But on April 19th, they got a call that would change their lives forever.

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“I just tell myself she’s away at school and she’ll be coming home soon, because I just can’t believe she’s gone,” Suzi Merical said.

The Mericals shed tears while talking about their only child. They say when they adopted her back in 2001, it was like the stars aligned.

“All I ever wanted to be was a mom, and we had put the word out that we had wanted a child, and we were obviously going to adopt a baby, because everything else had failed,” Suzi said.

At seven minutes to seven on the seventh day of the seventh month, the couple was there as their seven pound miracle baby was born. They say she always wanted to help people.

“She’d see like a homeless person sitting on the corner, and she’d take our leftovers over to them. That’s the kind of person she was,” John said.

When the Mericals got the call on April 19 that Paige had been rescued from the ocean and taken to the hospital, they tried to stay positive. However, it soon became apparent that she would not recover.

Paige passed away seven days later and her organs were donated.

“This way, she lives on in other people,” John said. “There’s a woman that got her heart that we haven’t met yet. There was a gentleman who got her liver which was an incredible story and it’s a perfect match, and who was days away from death.”

The Mericals now want to use their tragedy to prevent others from going through the same thing. They say after Paige’s death, they learned other countries have a different approach to rip current safety. Rather than swimming parallel to shore, they say float on your back or a flotation device if you have one, and let the rip current take you.

“You hold on, and once you’re out of it, once you’re past the waves, it stops. Because that’s where the sand bar is, that’s what creates the whole issue. And then you just stay right there and start yelling and screaming and waving at people, come get me,” John said.

The Mericals say Paige’s friends have been a huge support system for them, and they’re proud of their daughter for the people she chose to be around.

Click here for more information about the Mericals’ effort.