Dad drowns trying to save daughter, friend caught in rip current at NC beach, cops say

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A North Carolina dad drowned trying to help two kids being pulled out by a rip current on Tuesday afternoon.

Van Whitley, 47 of Mt. Gilead, went in after his 11-year-old daughter and her friend who were caught in a rip current while swimming off Holden Beach, according to the Holden Beach Police Department.

The two kids were able to make it out of the ocean safely — but police say Whitley started to struggle.

Emergency responders were called to the beach around 5:30 p.m. and pulled Whitley back to shore with the help of family members who had followed him into the water, police say.

Crews immediately performed CPR, but “resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful,” according to police.

Whitley died at the scene, police say. Officials have ruled his death an “accidental drowning.”

“Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Mr. Whitley,” Holden Beach Police Chief Jeremy Dixon said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the best thing to do if caught in a rip current is to swim parallel to the shore to escape it or to let the current carry you out until it weakens.

“Rip currents stay close to shore and usually dissipate just beyond the line of breaking waves,” NOAA says. “Occasionally, however, a rip current can push someone hundreds of yards offshore.”

NOAA says the most important thing is not to panic.

“Continue to breathe, try to keep your head above water and don’t exhaust yourself fighting against the force of the current,” it says.