TOPSAIL BEACH, N.C. (WECT) – Topsail Beach officials say a 62-year-old man from Hampstead died Wednesday after a good samaritan pulled him from the water.

Topsail Beach Police Chief Samuel Gervase says the drowning happened at 4:37 p.m. near ocean access three.

The police chief believes a rip current is to blame for the man’s death. The National Weather Center has warned there’s a high rip current risk at our local beaches since this weekend as Hurricane Humberto spins in the Atlantic.

A witness told police he saw 62-year-old Jerry Thompson walk into the water and disappear. That same witness later pulled the victim from the ocean as crews rushed to respond.

Dan Karant told WECT’s Anna Phillips he was walking the beach with family when they saw a man “out in the surf screaming “help, please help me.” He just called out and made it very obvious, he was trying to drag a man in.”

Karant says they helped that man — who he calls the ‘real hero’ — to get Thompson to shore, begin CPR and call 911 and Karant had high praise for everyone involved in the rescue effort.

“If that man had had any chance to survive, he was in the right hands right away,” he said.

Chief Gervase says they believe Thompson’s death was likely a drowning, however, there is no official cause of death at this point. Karant says the man was in shallow surf and his group believes he could have suffered a medical issue.

“We don’t know if it was a heart attack, a stroke, he fell and hit his head, under current, we really honestly do not know the cause of it, we just know he was found in the surf,” he said.

Karant is a pharmacist and says he and his wife just renewed their CPR certification in August. He says an off-duty nurse and a woman with EMS training were among those who just happened to be on the beach and stepped forward to help.

The town of Topsail Beach urges people to use extreme caution if they choose to enter the water.

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