‘We’re gonna die.’ Rip current sweeps four to sea off Oregon beach, rescuers say

When a rip current swept two 12-year-olds swimming off the Oregon coast 100 yards out to sea Monday, the boys panicked, KGW reported.

“They thought, ‘We’re gonna die, we’re gonna die,’” said Bridget Gustin, an aunt of one of the boys, according to the station. Mom Suzette Briggs said the boys were “in a lot of shock” and “screaming” as they were carried out to sea.

An uncle jumped into an inflatable raft but capsized in the surf, so Gustin swam out with life jackets, KGW reported. She couldn’t get the exhausted boys to shore.

The Rockaway Beach Volunteer Fire Department used an “unmanned surface vehicle” to rescue the four swimmers, the Tillamook Headlight Herald reported.

The remote-control rescue boat, equipped with a rope, motored out to the swimmers and pulled them back to shore, according to the publication.

It’s the first time the department has deployed the craft after training with it for a year, KGW reported. The volunteer agency needed “another option” because personnel trained for water rescues are not always on hand, Fire Chief Shawn Vincent said.

“As a reminder, there really is no safe spot to swim in the ocean off Rockaway Beach,” firefighters wrote on Facebook.

“Lake Lytle is a much safer alternative for swimming in water past your knees,” firefighters suggested.

Rockaway Beach, population 1,312, is a coastal community along Highway 101 in Tillamook County.

About 100 people die each year in the United States after getting caught in rip currents, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says on its SciJinks page. Another 30,000 are rescued each year.

Waves interacting with each other and the ocean floor create rip currents, which are strong and treacherous but normally short-lived, NOAA says.

“They can sweep even the strongest swimmer out to sea,” the agency reported.

Authorities on California’s Central Coast are warning beachgoers of an increased risk of rip currents, The San Luis Obispo Tribune reported.

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.