Rip current blamed for spring break tragedy involving Wake Forest High School seniors

Andrea Blanford Image
Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Vigil planned for teen who lost his life while swimming off the coast
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Vigil planned for teen who lost his life while swimming off the coast

EMERALD ISLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Emerald Isle police recovered the body of the 18-year-old swimmer from Wake Forest who went missing Friday.

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The body of Ian Lewis, 18, was found around 3:30 a.m. Monday near the 2800 block of the Emerald Isle Beach Stand. Emerald Isle Police said severe weather and rough seas hampered recovery efforts during the weekend.

On Friday, April 19, two swimmers went missing after getting caught in a rip current, officials said. Both swimmers were seniors at Wake Forest High School.

Waves in the area were reported as high as six to nine feet. Winds were whipping up to 30 mph that day.

Emerald Isle Fire and Rescue was able to locate and rescue Mary Paige Merical, 17, of Raleigh. She was taken to Carteret General Hospital and later moved to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville in critical condition.

A close family friend told ABC11 that Paige, who was known for being fun-loving and adventurous, is "hanging on by a thread."

A GoFundMe has been started for Paige and her family.

A GoFundMe has also been set up to help Ian's family.

Investigators said the swimmers got caught in rough surf, stemming from Friday's storms. Ian's body was found about four miles from where he and his friends entered the water.

An 18-year-old Wake Forest student who didn't want to be identfied told ABC11 on Monday that he was with Ian this weekend. He said six of them had rented a beach house for spring break.

A group of four students went into the water, he said, and one of them helped another out when the water got too rough, but Ian and Paige were pulled out in the rip current.