Officers were called to Busco Beach - a manmade beach near Goldsboro - around 6:45 p.m. Sunday after witnesses reported seeing three people struggling in the water.
The sheriff's office said two deputies were near the location and got there quickly. While they stripped out of their gear and swam out about 200 yards, other swimmers were able to rescue one person, while another was able to get out on his own.
Fourteen-year-old Jaimel Cooper of Raleigh was seen going under the water, but rescuers were not able to get to him in time. His body was recovered Monday morning.
Officials said the Raleigh teen was the third person to drown there since 2010.
The man who created Busco Beach said he doesn't know what he could do to prevent future tragedies.
"If I could comprehend mentally and money would buy it, I would have changed it," said Jack Bennett, the former owner of Busco Beach. "I don't know how to change it. It's three feet deep. It's not over your head. There's no obstruction in the water. There's no trees. There's no debris. There's no stumps. There's no drop offs. There's no holes.
There are currently no lifeguards at the beach.
"My heart goes out to the family and friends of the victim," said Wayne County Sheriff C. A. Winders in a statement.
A previous version of this story reported that deputies were able to rescue one swimmer. The sheriff's office later issued a correction.