Drowning claims Hillsboro man


A 68-year-old man from Hillsboro died Tuesday morning in a water-related incident off southern Hatteras Island at Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

At approximately 10:30 a.m., a 911 call was placed to report an unresponsive visitor in the ocean off southern Hatteras Island, near off-road vehicle ramp 55.

Two bystanders shared that the Leonard Oxley was swimming in the ocean when he shouted for help. The bystanders saw the 68-year-old man starting to go underwater when they swam out and pulled him to shore.

Dare County Sheriff’s Office, Dare County Emergency Medical Services, Hatteras Island Rescue Squad and North Carolina Highway Patrol responded to the incident.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful.

A beach hazards statement was in effect through Tuesday evening at Hatteras Island beaches for dangerous rip currents and large breaking waves in the surf zone.

David Hallac, superintendent of the National Parks of Eastern North Carolina, released following statement: “The Seashore sends condolences to the families and friends of the swimmers that lost their lives over the last two days. High energy surf conditions, including large waves and life-threatening rip currents, are forecast to be present all week. Visitors wading into the surf, even as shallow as waist deep, may be overcome by large waves, suffer injuries, and may be overtaken by rough ocean conditions making it difficult, if not impossible, for all but the strongest, most experienced swimmers to survive.

“We urge visitors to avoid entering the ocean when the rip current risk is moderate or high and when the waves are more than 1-2 feet in height. Moreover, even in the calmest conditions, swimming off the beaches of Cape Hatteras National Seashore is much more difficult than swimming in a pool or lake and only the most experienced should consider entering the water. All swimmers should have leashed flotation with them (body board or surfboard) and a friend or family member on the beach to watch them at all times.

“While you may see surfers seemingly effortlessly riding the waves, do not be tempted to enter the ocean during these hazardous conditions. The majority of surfers at Cape Hatteras National Seashore are competent athletes that have developed significant skills and experience or time to engage in their sport. Consider spending time on a sound-side beach at the Seashore, including locations such as the Haulover, Salvo and Devil Shoals Road sound access sites for a safer opportunity to enjoy the water when hazardous ocean conditions are present.”

Oxley worked in food service at Hillsboro Elementary School. He also helped with the school district’s summer feeding program and was reportedly on vacation at the time of the incident, Hillsboro Superintendent Tim Davis said.

“He was a great guy. There was nothing negative you could say about him,” Davis said. “He was a great person, great employee and great father.”

The drowning was the second in less than 24 hours off North Carolina’s Outer Banks, according to the National Park Service. The first incident involved a woman from Washington, D.C., who died off Avon at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the park reported. Her identity has not immediately released.

Most of the information for this story came from the National Park Service.

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