VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — It was a busy holiday weekend at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. Lifeguards reunited 60 kids with their families and rescued 18 swimmers in distress, but tragically 2 people drowned near Shore Drive.
Family members are too devastated right now to do an interview, but they told 10 On Your Side that 44-year-old Ryan Neal was a father and was always doing something on the weekends, whether it was canoeing, fishing or hitting the beach.
His girlfriend says she was inches away from him when he went under and says she hopes people will be more careful on the water, especially near the sand bars.
Officials identified 12-year-old Zamari Wilson and 44-year-old Ryan Neal as the two people who drowned near Shore Drive over the weekend.
Family members say Neal just moved to the area from Minnesota to be closer to his daughter. His girlfriend tells 10 On Your Side they were walking on a sand bar when it happened. Virginia Beach Life Saving Service says a lot of people like to walk on the sand bars, but they can be dangerous.
“There are troughs that actually build up when it comes into high tide and you can’t touch anymore and that can cause people to get into some trouble,” said lifeguard, Colby Chamberlin.
Chamberlin was on duty this weekend at the Oceanfront when 18 people were saved, one of those saved was his own.
“I tried to whistle her in because she was out so far,” said Chamberlin. “She started freaking out and started climbing the ladder. We got to her, gave her the buoy and she was okay.”
Chief of Virginia Beach Life Saving Service, Tom Gill, says lifeguards are trained to see the signs of distress and they can either keep people from getting into danger or if they are in it they’ll be able to find a solution to help get them out of it.
Gill says it’s especially important to never swim alone and always swim near a lifeguard.
“It’s a dynamic environment out there every day,” said Gill. “Every hour, every minute, it’s changing, tide levels are changing, the currents are changing, the winds shift. There’s a lot of things out there that make it fun but can also be dangerous and the lifeguards are trained to see the danger.”
Gill says it’s important to be aware of where the waves are breaking if you are in an area without a lifeguard, but it’s always better to swim in an area that has a lifeguard.
There’s a GoFundMe set up to help Ryan’s family get his body back to Minnesota. To donate, CLICK HERE.