Father travels coast warning of rip currents after teen daughter’s death


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — John Merical is using the memory of his daughter to push for change.

Paige Merical was caught in a rip current off Emerald Isle, North Carolina, on April 19, 2019.

John says the moment he got the call that day he knew something wasn’t right. He learned Paige was underwater for 14 minutes and someone was performing CPR on her.

“It was just like our world just exploded within those few words,” said Merical.

John says they revived her and she was taken to a hospital in Greenville, but doctors told his family she had limited brain activity.

8 days later, his sweet 17-year-old daughter died.

“That was the good thing, we got to spend 8 days with her. And we would make sure she had lotion on her hands, and she just looked like she was just asleep,” he said.

This summer, John is going up and down the coast to educate people on powerful rip currents. He says he’ll be in our area in the beginning of July. 

And he comes with the message, not to fight the rip, but float it out.

“If you can’t float, you can’t go in a swimming pool and go on your back and float, you do not need to be in the ocean,” he said.

10 On Your Side spoke with the Virginia Beach Lifesaving Services Chief Tom Gill, who says rip currents can be hard to spot if you’re not trained in spotting them.

“The other thing they look for is where the sand is breaking, where the sandbar is, where the wave is not breaking, is typically where you’re going to find that rip current,” Gill said.

Gill says this year’s already been a busy season for them as far as rescues go, and suggests people only go in the water near lifeguards.

John says he hopes sharing his daughter’s story will save lives.

He says his daughter already has saved lives in a different way as well.

She was an organ donor, and she saved 5 people. He says he hopes to one day meet the person who has her heart.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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