SEE FOR YOURSELF
The National Weather Service's rip current safety website includes a short video: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/ripcurrents/multimedia/Ripsmall.mov
Sources: Staff reports; National Weather Service's rip current safety website, http://www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov
National Weather Service's rip current safety website: http://www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov/
The site includes a short video on how to escape a rip current: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/ripcurrents/multimedia/Ripsmall.mov
Clinging to a wall of rocks covered with jagged barnacles and oyster shells, Jamie Dallas and Dayna Baugher were exhausted.
The cousins had swallowed saltwater and suffered cuts all over their bodies as they simultaneously battled a sudden rip current that wanted to sweep them out to sea and waves that repeatedly tossed them back onto the rocky groin Sunday afternoon at Hunting Island State Park.
Just when they were about to give up their struggle, Dallas' friend and a group of strangers clambered to their aid, dragging them back to the park's north beach.
Speaking Tuesday as they nursed their wounds and recovered from their ordeal, Dallas and Baugher felt lucky to be alive. Both women said the same rocks that inflicted so much pain might have saved their lives.
"If the rocks weren't there, we wouldn't have made it," said Baugher, who called for help between each wave. "There's no way we could've survived that current."
Dallas, a 23-year-old restaurant server, and Baugher, a 28-year-old nanny, said they want to share their story to make others more aware of the dangers of rip currents, the powerful channels of water that flow away from shore and occasionally endanger local swimmers.
The women grew up in Beaufort and are regular beachgoers, yet neither knew the suggested strategy for escaping a current, they said.
Instead of swimming parallel to shore as recommended, Dallas and Baugher tried to fight the current by swimming directly back to shore. As friends, family and their rescuers later told them, that could have been a costly mistake.
The women also want to thank the people who saved them from the surf.
The saga began about 2:30 p.m. as the cousins, who seldom go swimming for fear of jellyfish, took a rare dip.
In waves just above their waists, they had just sent Baugher's 8-year-old daughter to ferry a pair of sunglasses back to shore.
Then, they felt a current pull them toward the ocean.
"Within the next minute, the water was taking us out," Dallas said. "Then, it took us underneath."
When the women resurfaced, they found themselves next to the rocks, which are part of one of six groins along the park's beach to control erosion.
The park does not have lifeguards on duty but does have signs warning visitors to be wary of rip currents and stay away from the groins, park superintendent Jeff Atkins said.
Other people also were caught in the current, but they were able to escape before Dallas and Baugher, the cousins said.
After the cousins found their way back to shore, they were taken to a nearby road and then by ambulance to the emergency room of Beaufort Memorial Hospital.
When Dallas and Baugher emerged several hours later, hospital staff had prescribed them antibiotics and pain medicine, scrubbed their injuries to remove detritus and minimize the risk of infection and sealed the gashes with stitches and adhesive glue.
They will be on bed rest until Monday.
After that, Baugher said, they won't return to the beach anytime soon.
"It's going to be a while before we go back," she said.