73-year-old Raleigh man dies trying to save drowning friend at Emerald Isle

EMERALD ISLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Two men, one of whom lived in Raleigh, died after drowning in Emerald Isle on Sunday.

Volunteers tried to rescue James Howard Burton, 72, of Cornelius, and John C. Emerline, 73, of Raleigh, but were unsuccessful.

Emerald Isle officials said Burton was in the ocean and appeared to be in trouble, prompting Emerline to go into the water to save him. Neither man made it out of the water alive.

Four surfers and a lifeguard entered the water, attempting to rescue the men on a strand of beach near Ship Wreck Lane.

John's son, Mike, said John was a New Jersey beach lifeguard when he was in his early 20s. He was a good swimmer, as was most of his family.

"We grew up in the ocean," Mike said. "I just never thought in a million years that he would have drowned."

Mike told ABC11 that John and James had been friends since college. The town believed the two were related, but Mike said that was not the case.

"A loss of this magnitude is simply heartbreaking," stated Town Manager Matt Zapp. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the Burton and Emerline families during this tragic time."
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