2 drown in separate incidents at Virginia Beach

Alfredo Alonso Avila / EyeEm / Getty Images

(VIRGINIA BEACH, Va.) -- Two individuals, a 12-year-old boy and 44-year-old man, died after drowning in the Chesapeake Bay in separate incidents, officials said.

Zamari Wilson, who was visiting Virginia Beach with his family from Washington, D.C., was last seen around 10 a.m. on Sunday about 20 to 30 yards offshore before he went missing, police said.

According to police, Wilson's mother called the police shortly after he went missing, and the police began responding to the scene.

The U.S. Coast Guard responded to the incident alongside the Virginia Beach Police Department, Virginia Beach Fire Department and the Virginia Beach Emergency Medical Services.

Melissa Johnston, public information officer for the VBPD, said that where Wilson went missing is a "resort area" where children often become missing, so the police tend to search both on land and in the water when a child is reported to be missing.

After a “comprehensive search” of the area from which Wilson was last seen, the child was found in the water at 1:28 p.m. and taken to an ambulance.

Later that afternoon, Wilson was pronounced dead.

A spokesperson from the U.S. Coast Guard told ABC News that two 29-foot response boats from Coast Guard Station Little Creek were launched, as well as an aircraft from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City.

The Coast Guard also reported to send an 87-foot patrol boat from Coast Guard Cutter Sailfish.

According to a spokesperson, the Coast Guard helped coordinate the response among local authorities.

Within a mile from where Wilson was found in the bay, officials also found the body of a 44-year-old man near the Lesner Bridge on Sunday afternoon.

The VBPD has not yet released the identity of the victim.

Johnston told ABC News that two calls alerted police to the victim, one from the victim's girlfriend who was swimming with the victim, and one from a nearby individual who saw the victim go under.

The woman had been swimming with the victim on Sunday when he was pulled by a current that eventually took him underwater.

According to Johnston, the victim's girlfriend was able to flag down someone on a jetski, and ride on the jetski with the owner to search for the victim while awaiting a police response.

The Coast Guard was alerted on Sunday afternoon by the VBPD and again assisted with search and rescue. The Coast Guard sent boats and aircraft from their Little Creek and Elizabeth City stations once more, as well as coordinated the response among local authorities involved in the rescue.

The Coast Guard sent boats and aircraft from their Little Creek and Elizabeth City stations once more, as well as coordinated the response among local authorities involved in the rescue.

The Coast Guard told ABC News that the victim’s body was located by underwater divers from the VBFD.

Johnston told ABC News that this kind of event is not common, particularly for the Chesapeake Bay area from which both victims drowned.

"Where it took place, there's not usually big waves or anything crazy out there. We usually have issues on the ocean side," Johnston said.

However, Johnston added that there is still a current in the bay, and you can never be certain what the water is like when you go out. Nonetheless, these were shocking incidents.

"I was trying to remember the last time they had actual drowning [at Virginia Beach], and I couldn't, so to have two in one day, super close to each other is just crazy," Johnston said.

Johnston added that she is not aware of any other water-injury related incidents from either the bay or ocean side beaches over the holiday weekend.

Tom Gill, chief of the Virginia Beach Lifesaving Service, told ABC News affiliate 13NewsNow that lifeguards don't work at the bay beaches off Shore Drive, where both of Sunday’s drowning occurred.

Gill said that people should swim in areas where lifeguards patrol the water and added that the majority of lifeguard rescues happen due to incidents involving a rip current.

According to annual data from the Office of the Medical Examiner, accidental drowning accounts for at least 12 children deaths each year.

Drowning is the second biggest cause of children deaths, following only car accidents, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports.

Overall, over 900 people died from accidental drownings in Virginia from 2011-2020, data from the Office of the Medical Examiner reports.

A spokesperson for the Coast Guard told ABC News that it’s important for people to understand the strength of the ocean, even from the shore.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022 at 6:03PM by Kyla Guilfoil, ABC News Permalink