Pa. Man Drowns Off Assateague In Unguarded Area

ASSATEAGUE — A Trappe, Pa. man drowned in an unguarded section of ocean off the coast of Assateague on Tuesday as conditions in the surf continue to deteriorate due to offshore storm activity.

According to Assateague Island National Seashore (AINS) officials, 45-year-old Chuck Poole and his 16-year-old son were swimming in the ocean off of the Oceanside campground south of the lifeguarded area on Wednesday. According to AINS officials, the surf is powerful up and down the coast this week because of offshore storm activity.

Both the father and son were having difficulty in the rough water, but the son made it back to the beach. However, the elder Poole did not. According to AINS officials, surfers noticed the victim floating in the ocean and with the help of bystanders got him back to the beach. Two lifeguards from the guarded area to the north came to the scene and assisted.

According to AINS officials, the victim was not conscious and was not breathing. Rescuers performed CPR on the victim and an AED was used until an ambulance arrived. Poole was transported to Atlantic General Hospital in Berlin where he was pronounced deceased.

Tuesday’s drowning at Assateague came one day after the Coast Guard issued reminders about rough ocean conditions on the beach and offshore over the next few days. In a press release issued on Monday, the Coast Guard advised mariners and swimmers throughout the region to use caution this week as surf conditions deteriorate.

Tropical Depression Eight and Tropical Storm Hermine, which was upgraded from a depression Wednesday afternoon, were forecasted to impact the beaches and waterways from North Carolina to New Jersey as they pass through the mid-Atlantic region this week and into the weekend potentially.

“Our primary concern is ensuring the safety of life at sea,” said Coast Guard Fifth District Chief of Response Captain William Lane on Monday. “We are encouraging all mariners, personal watercraft users and beachgoers to make safety a priority as these two weather systems pass through the region.”

The Coast Guard issued a number of recommendations for swimmers along the mid-Atlantic coast this week. Swimmers and personal watercraft users are advised to be extra cautious of rip currents and check their local beach forecasts before entering the water. In addition, the Coast Guard is reminding beachgoers to talk with lifeguards and to not go swimming on a beach without a lifeguard.

However, the latter has become more challenging during the waning days of summer with an employment drain for local beach patrols from Delaware to Ocean City to Assateague. A check of the Ocean City Beach Patrol site for Tuesday revealed the rip current risk was low at the resort beaches. That was upgraded to moderate on Wednesday and Thursday. The site also reports lifeguards are now located every four to six blocks during the week at this point. The Ocean City Beach Patrol is advising beachgoers to walk to the closest lifeguard stand and ask about prevailing conditions before entering the water.

Tuesday’s drowning at Assateague occurred in an area not currently guarded. However, AINS officials are reporting the same employment drain as other resort areas and are encouraging visitors to swim near guarded beaches. Assateague Island National Seashore started the season with 13 guards and was down to just five as of late last week. All available guards are working overtime to provide seven-day-a-week coverage on the barrier island.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.