Man drowns trying to save girlfriend’s three sons off So. Shores

By on July 20, 2018

The incident happened just north of the Southern Shores/Kitty Hawk town line. (Sam Walker)

A 32-year-old lower Currituck man died while trying to help his girlfriend’s three sons who got caught in a rip current Thursday evening off Southern Shores.

He is the seventh person to die in a swimming-related incident on the Outer Banks this season, and second in the past week.

At approximately 8:12 p.m., Southern Shores Police were dispatched to the area of Pelican Watch just north of the Kitty Hawk Pier for a water rescue, according to a Chief David M. Kole.


Three males, ages 19, 14 and 12, were swimming in the Atlantic Ocean near Kitty Hawk Pier when currents pulled them out approximately 75 yards and in a northerly direction.

The boys began screaming for help and the 12-year-old was being pulled out even further, according to Kole.

Kenny Ray Gooch of Powells Point and two bystanders immediately went into the ocean in an attempt to help the trio. Gooch was pulled out past the 12-year-old and then disappeared from sight.

Kenny Ray Gooch (courtesy Gallop Funeral Services)

The 19- and 14-year-old made it back to shore on their own, Kole said, and the two by-standers were able to assist the 12-year-old back to shore.

Ocean Rescue personnel arrived on scene and assisted in locating the victim, who was unresponsive, brought him to shore and immediately started performing CPR along with Dare EMS.


They were unable to revive Gooch and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

“The Southern Shores Police Department sends its thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of the victim and a sincere thank you for all those that assisted in this unfortunate incident,” Kole said.

While there was a low risk of rip currents on Thursday, the incident happened during low tide and near a pier, when and where rip currents can be enhanced at anytime regardless of the conditions.



  • Lisa

    PEOPLE! Mother Nature does not play games. Follow and pay attention to warnings! Learn to swim WITH rip currents, parallel to the shore until you swim out of it. Don’t swim against them!!!!!!

    Friday, Jul 20 @ 4:33 pm
  • Bud

    So sad..
    Why are folks swimming here? Dont they know our beaches are not for swimming! Proven every tourist season with many lives lost.
    The tourism board should step up and make it known.

    Friday, Jul 20 @ 6:35 pm
  • elle aych

    Please folks, PLEASE take a boggie board, a raft, an inner tube, a pool NOODLE!!!! Anything that FLOATS with you when you go to the beach here! I am soooooo sad this had to happen for the eighth time!!! 🙁

    Friday, Jul 20 @ 6:43 pm
  • sortudo

    Bud, did you make it past 8th grade? Just asking.

    Friday, Jul 20 @ 8:19 pm
  • Fred

    Always have a boogie or surfboard or another floatation device. Its so sad but I believe its a numbers game. Many people go into the ocean who are weak swimmers or do not know how to swim at all.

    Saturday, Jul 21 @ 12:56 am
  • JW

    Being a strong swimmer helps but the fear of drowning will put most anyone into panic mode. I definite agree with bringing out a floatation device.

    Saturday, Jul 21 @ 8:26 am
  • Duck Resident

    The world’s oceans are not swimming pools. They are not water parks. When people ignore the conditions of the ocean currents because they believe they are “good enough” swimmers they put themselves and those who try to help them in life threatening situations. All but one of the OBX drownings this summer was related to rip current issues. Information about rip currents is routinely and strongly communicated to those that
    choose to swim in ocean. This information is ignored time and time again.
    We appreciate our lifeguards and ocean rescue units, but people must start making better choices. The risks of swimming in water with rip currents just isn’t worth taking these deadly chances. I echo the sentiments of those who insist on using a flotation device when attempting to save someone.

    Saturday, Jul 21 @ 9:42 am
  • JJ Como

    Wish more people would respect the ocean’s power. It’s one thing if you’re on a surf board but if you’re just swimming you got to stay out of the ocean on rough days and lately it’s been rough everyday. I got little ones and I let them swim in the sound…much safer.

    Saturday, Jul 21 @ 10:45 am
  • Bud

    I’m sorry sortudo that the system failed to allow you past 8th grade.

    Saturday, Jul 21 @ 1:08 pm
  • John

    That was a brave, heroic effort and I’m sorry for the family’s loss. I wish our community’s response was more embracing and less finger wagging.

    Sunday, Jul 22 @ 12:55 pm
  • Merle A Andersen

    Wow Bud, thousands of people swim here every week. Not paying attention to the warning signs both man made and by nature seems to be the question. You aren’t advocating no swimming are you?

    Tuesday, Jul 24 @ 4:00 pm
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