Pregnant woman dies after water rescue

By on July 26, 2012

(Washington & Lee U.)

By Irene Nolan
Island Free Press

A pregnant woman has died and her husband was in serious condition after the two were pulled from the ocean near Ramp 43 in Buxton Wednesday evening.

National Park Service chief law enforcement ranger Paul Stevens identified the couple as Jill Bailey Chenet, 31, and her husband Matthew Christopher Chenet, 37, of Washington, D.C.

Stevens said a 911 call was received about 6:45 p.m. about two swimmers in distress in the ocean.

NPS rangers and off-duty lifeguards responded, along with the Hatteras Island Rescue Squad and Dare County Emergency Medical Services.

When the first responders arrived, they saw a man and a woman floating face down in the water about 20 yards offshore. The off-duty lifeguards and rescue squad members pulled the two from the water and CPR was begun immediately.

Jill Chenet, about six months pregnant, was not breathing and had no pulse. Matthew Chenet was having trouble breathing.

Matthew Chenet was flown directly to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.

His wife was taken by ambulance to Vidant Family Care Center in Avon, where medical personnel detected a weak pulse. She was then taken by ambulance to The Outer Banks Hospital in Nags Head.

From Nags Head, she was flown to Sentara Norfolk General, where she was pronounced dead on arrival.

Jill Chenet, a 2003 graduate of Washington and Lee University, was a second-grade teacher at the River School in Washington, D.C.

The drowning is the third at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore this summer.

According to the National Weather Service in Newport, N.C., the rip current threat was low yesterday.

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July 31, 2012 2:45 am

The reason that the female was not flown out directly and instead transported by ambulance to Norfolk, for those that have asked, is because the cabin space in a medflight helicopter does not allow for CPR to be performed. Most likely, CPR was initiated on scene and continued en route to the local medical center. Once she arrived there and it was determined she had a weak pulse, post-resucitation efforts were probably initiated in an effort to stabilize her, and then the decision made to transport her to Norfolk via ambulance. If she were to return to cardiac arrest while en route, CPR efforts could be resumed. If she coded in a helicopter, no substantial measures could be taken to resucitate her.

Sandy Piece of Heaven

July 30, 2012 10:22 pm

First of all, this is not a turtle or bird issue! I was with my good friend when we were caught in a rip just north of Ramp 4 on June 20th; Sandy drowned in that rip at the young age of 46. The water was calm that day and although I have swum in the ocean for 50 years, I was never aware of the rip current warnings. I’ve always been a strong swimmer and NEVER was afraid of these waters. Since that day, we live a “new normal.” We NEVER go out without a flotation device and I suppose always HAVE realized that oceans are dangerous, but we TAKE that risk every time we go in (using common sense).
I want to say that we struggled for 15-20 at 4:00 in the afternoon and we were NOT at a guarded beach, but there were southwest winds and no one heard us screaming for help. By the time we were able to get in, Sandy really had NO hope of recovering. Truthfully, unless someone who has “breathed in” ocean water has very little chance of survival unless rescued immediately and advanced life support equipment is readily available. We did start CPR and although it was difficult for rescue workers getting to the site, loading up and getting to the ramp, they did EVERYTHING they could possibly do for Sandy, AND for us. I was a trauma nurse and my husband is a physician; WE are the ones that have always done the comforting and consoling of loved ones, but these lifeguards, NPS workers, and rescue workers did EVERYTHING in their power to give Sandy a chance at life.
Much praise to all of you for training, committing, and doing everything in your power to keep all beach-goers safe. People come here to have fun and enjoy life; at least these dear ladies who lost their lives were doing that. May they have eternal rest in the Lord.

Long time beach visitor

July 30, 2012 5:29 pm

Two precious lives were lost and another is left behind to endure unspeakable tragedy. Anyone who frequents the OBX knows that without a doubt, emergency response there is among the best anywhere. These beaches are known for the swimming hazards and I personally am grateful for all that the first responders do. My friend lost a childhood friend in this woman and this is a tragedy for all involved.


July 30, 2012 4:57 pm

I will tell you this: had i been on scene or even just walking the beach i would have done everything in my power to save both of them. I would have jumped in to try and save them even though i have no experience swimming in the ocean. I would have done whatever i had to do to save that woman,husband, and unborn child even if it means risking my own life. I feel so much pain for this family. Words themselves cant explain how tragic this event was.

They were a mother and father to be and it is heart breaking to hear of this story. Every person that was involved in trying to save this family should be praised for attempting to bring them back. I thank every single person chief 42 and all for trying to save this family when they were in distress. Nobody understands how hard it is to try and save another himan beings life. And when the person they try to save dies in a tragedy like this, its extremely hard to forget. It is something that will stick in there mind for the rest of their lives. And as for the woman who knows the family, i am truly and deeply sorry for your loss. Nothing i can do or say will ever bring them back. Thoughts and prayers go out to anyone and everyone who knew them. She looked like a Beautiful woman and as for her husband Mr.Chenet im sorry for your loss if you see this. If you ever need anyone to talk to please feel free to talk. Your wifes and childs prayers are in my Heart


July 30, 2012 9:41 am

Condolences to the family. Heartfelt thanks for all the well-wishers and support for those of us who were on-scene. It was a true tragedy which the family and those who were there will never forget.

KDH Rezident Evil

July 29, 2012 12:33 pm

Just another example of why having immediate helo service is so vital to Dare.

To the anonymous heroes who tried to save the couple, words cannot express a community’s gratitude for your effort.

Finally, bravo to Richard Martin for speaking up about the rescue effort, though in fairness “If you were not part of our attempt to save these lives you have absolutely no business even commenting on it period” would preclude those of us who wish only to express our appreciation for the efforts from saying anything as well.

newt tarn

July 29, 2012 10:19 am

Chief 42…Bravo zulu…atta boy…THANK YOU…your input is LONG overdue…we need more like you….newt

bob h

July 29, 2012 6:25 am

First off, it was not rough that day. Second, he struggled for 20-30min trying to get her ashore before 911 was called. One has to wonder IF the beach they were at were not a “mine field” of turtle nests, would there have been more people on the beach to witness this event and notify 911 sooner?? Currently there are over 100 turtle nests on Hatteras Island and while NPS allows Hatteras Island Rescue to disregard closures during an emergency, the number of nests precludes beach safety patrols altogether in some areas and certainly slows down our response to a swimmer in distress. Is Cape Hatteras National Seashore safe?? Yes, if your a turtle or a bird, humans not so much. For this to happen to this young mother to-be in “downtown” Buxton in shameful. Despite the attempts of Audubon and others Buxton beach is not a wildlife refuge.


July 29, 2012 6:23 am

All of Hatteras Island is not for swimming.It’s ocean dynamics that dictate this.
Lifeguards are not the answer and do not help the issues.

Richard Marlin

July 28, 2012 6:06 pm

Let me just say, signs are worthless. This was NOT I repeat NOT a rip current issue. It WAS a access issue for rescue. They were in the life guarded area but slightly after NPS LG shift end. The Beach was not rough. As far as I could tell He swam to her after she fell into a “hole” and was swept out not “pulled under” and he tried in vain to save her. There was a “littoral” current running toward the point which took them both down the beach about 300 yards.
THOUSANDS of people swim here without lifeguards, (without fins) sorry “steve” your full of it.
And to those of you that think from your arm chair that decisions on that scene were in error, first contact Dare County EMS and talk to them about it, and then come on down and volunteer your time with us assuming your fit enough to even get into the squad.
The arm chair critics here could not even begin to understand the limited circumstances reported in the paper. If you were not part of our attempt to save these lives you have absolutely no business even commenting on it period. Flight by the way is a luxury we are afforded by having our own medical helo. the “other” services are at least an hour off in the best of circumstance. When we have already used Dare Med Flight or it’s on another transport then we try to minimise the distance by “load and go” to the next nearest helipad.
This was a very very bad situation that you all have no right to put down. We did everything in our power to save these people and YOU are adding insult to injury. Did your mom not teach you better ? Chief 42


July 28, 2012 2:18 pm

Steve, Do you mean the beach with lifeguards by the old lighthouse locations is not a “swimming beach”? Or just the areas to the south closer to the point.


July 28, 2012 9:11 am

If you want to erect signs they should read ‘swimming not recommended’


July 27, 2012 10:10 pm

I was so sad to hear this story and like others wondered why she wasn’t immediately flown to Norfolk since a slight pulse was detected. I can’t help but wonder if valuable time was lost and I’m sure the family is thinking the same. Its not that these people don’t have good sense but there should be more, if there are any at all, signs posted ON the beach, showing people what to do if caught in a rip current. Lifeguards can’t always be there but people will read these metal signs if we post them out there.


July 27, 2012 6:17 pm

Bless their Hearts.
We residents wish the public would realize, these are not swimming beaches. Swimming is not recommended.
If you must swim, please have a solid base fitness and wear fins for swimming that have a ankle leash.

friend of female

July 27, 2012 6:11 pm

To the bystanders that tried to save her and her unborn child…words cannot express our graditude for trying everything you could! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts..

friend of female

July 27, 2012 6:08 pm

I am friend of the female; and for you, ‘good sense’, this girl was the sweetest, kindest person I have ever known, she had a lot of sense, and had probably more intelligence in her little finger then you could ever imagine having. If she had fallen then I don’t think it has anything to do with sense, does it! I don’t think your opinion was neccessary or appreciated!! Women like her made this world a brighter place!

Good Sense.

July 27, 2012 3:20 pm

With out a doubt this is a tragedy.

Most are telling people to swim near a life guard.

That is good advise.

However. Use some good ole common sense.

Ramp 43 just north of Cape Point. A NE wind that blew hard all the night before and then again that morning.

I wasn’t there, but I already know how that ramp’s surf condition would’ve looked– without seeing it first hand.

People need to exercise their brain from time to time.

I feel for the family and their unnecessary losses.


July 27, 2012 12:28 pm

I saw one article that stated she had fell and her husband went in after her. I don’t think this was a planned swim. While nothing can change the fact that she is gone, but I too wish they would have flown her immediately with her husband.


July 27, 2012 11:44 am

It cannot be said often enough: always swim near a lifeguard. Always. If the lifeguards are off duty, stay out of the water. Even an experienced swimmer can run into trouble in the ocean.


July 27, 2012 11:21 am

I know the initial bystander personally just not the second gentlemen. I’m sure authorities have a way the family could contact the two men.


July 27, 2012 11:19 am

Jon you are correct. My classmate is an older gentleman who lives in Buxton, and he was the one who walked upon the scene. He is a hero in my mind for getting first responders to the scene while “he” started CPR on the woman. The second bystander from what I hear was a surfer an swam out to the husband. Condolences to the families for their losses.

Ozzie-loves Hatteras

July 27, 2012 9:00 am

I can’t imagine the feeling of loss for the husband in this tragic incident. Prayers for the family and for eventual peace. So many people under estimate the rip current here and it’s so sad to see the price paid for it. We have a rip tide do’s and don’ts sheet posted at our home just for this reason.

very sad

July 27, 2012 8:26 am

there has been a lot of current running south to north down here for at least the past week, not the typical rips that run out into the ocean that you see posted on signs


July 27, 2012 8:16 am

Swim at a beach that is guarded at a time when the guards are posted. That significantly raises your chances of a tragedy like this not happening.

Of course, that means you’ll have to use the beaches north of NPS property. The turtles and birds are guarded. Not so much the humans.


July 27, 2012 7:39 am

Why was she not immediately flown to Norfolk ?


July 26, 2012 11:06 pm

I don’t know anything about emergency services, but why was the wife not flown to Norfolk when they detected a pulse? Or at least _flown_ to Nags Head. That’s a long ride in an ambulance.


July 26, 2012 9:40 pm

How awful. It would seem that so many visitors are not acquainted with the rougher waters found along the Outer Banks. The ocean there is totally different compared with other areas, such as the Gulf or even South Carolina. Thoughts and prayers for the families of this young woman.


July 26, 2012 8:25 pm

The article is correct. The first responders arrived at the point where a bystander had already pulled the women almost to the shore line. Her husband was floating on his back about 20m off the beach. Significant recognition should given to the two bystanders that came across the scene and then raced down the beach for help, then returned to the scene to try to save them. Who were those guys? The husband’s life is owed to them.


July 26, 2012 6:50 pm

Very sad . . so we get 4-5 million visitors a year, and only a handfull drown . . sort of like the chances of getting struck by lightning. But, there must be some common denominator about these drownings . . what is it, and how can we educate visitors/locals about the risks, etc. I’m sure the OBX “rip-tide” program has helped so far, thank goodness, but the fact that people are still loosing their lives in the ocean next to the shore means that the we need to do better . . .


July 26, 2012 3:56 pm

My heart breaks for this family. My prayers are with Mrs. Chenet’s husband, family and friends. The word “sad” just isn’t sufficient.

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