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‘You gotta wear your flops!’: Barefoot man suffers second-degree burns at Croatan Beach

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Joe Maffia says it took less than 10 seconds for the skin on his left foot to start peeling after getting burned by the decking that connects the public parking lot to Croatan Beach.

He soaked his feet in the ocean for about 20 minutes to help alleviate the pain, but a doctor’s visit the next day revealed he had second-degree burns.  

“I stepped on, I took a couple of steps and said, ‘Golly, that’s hot!’ and then just kind of jogged the rest of the way until I got to the shower and cooled my foot down,” said Maffia, who moved to Virginia Beach from upstate New York four years ago.

“I’ve never felt anything that hot,” he recalled.

10 On Your Side spotted one woman running barefoot down the decking on Monday afternoon and then using a water fountain to splash water on her feet.

Locals say they are not surprised by Maffia’s burns.

“It’s an awesome beach day, but you have to come prepared with your flops,” said Heather Thomas. “Locals know: wear your flops.”

The decking at Croatan is similar to the decking used from the North End to Sandbridge that gives people access to the sand.

Tom Gill, who runs the Virginia Beach Lifesaving Service, says guards have helped people with similar burns in the past. Gill reminds people to never underestimate the heat that comes off the decking – or even the hot sand.

Maffia says he would like the city to post signs warning beachgoers of the extreme heat on the decking.

Drew Lankford, a spokesman for Virginia Beach Public Works, says they have not received enough complaints to warrant new signage. He adds the decking itself is state property.

“It’s never been brought to our attention as an ongoing problem,” said Lankford. “It’s something most people know – to have your feet in some kind of shoe. We have not gotten enough reports of the problem to justify new signs. It’s a common sense thing.”

Maffia admits it was his mistake. He now hopes his painful burns will serve as a reminder to others to be careful on their next beach trip.

“I just want to say, ‘Man, if this could happen to me, can you imagine children or if you bring your pet on here to go to the ocean.’”

Gill says lifeguards can help call for help, but their policy does not allow them to apply ointments, like burn cream, to beachgoers.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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