Family of fallen Wake Forest teen to start campaign about rip-tide dangers

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (WTVD) -- Family members of Paige Merical, who died after getting caught in a rip current in Emerald Isle, are starting a campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of rip currents ahead of the summer season.

Their main message: "Don't fight the rip current. Float with it."

"If it happens, don't panic, almost enjoy, just get back," her father John Merical said, and he added that you should float and try to wave for help. "Just relax and then just keep one hand (up), just keep waving for people."

Paige, 17, was taken to the hospital after the tragedy last month. Her brain was severely damaged.

"It was very emotional," John Merical said. "They were very honest saying all along the odds aren't very good for her."

The Wake Forest High student died a week later.

Her friend, 18-year-old Ian Lewis, also got caught in the rip current and died. A group of friends went to the beach during spring break.

"I don't want to hear, 'is she breathing again?'" John Merical said. "That's what my wife -- the comment my wife made -- when the phone rang, 'is she breathing?'"

That's why the Mericals will visit pools and beaches, raising awareness about the threat that rip currents pose.

It's one way they're keeping Paige's memory alive.

"She was my buddy," John Merical said. "We always did our fist pumps and she was really, really bright."

The Mericals are having a kickoff event for their campaign June 9 at Sugar Magnolia Café in Wake Forest from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Paige was an organ donor and helped save at least five lives, her dad said. Her parents also want to educate people about how to become an organ donor.
Copyright © 2019 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.