NOAA environmental prediction director dies after ocean rescue in Duck

Dr. William M. Lapenta Director, National Centers for Environmental Prediction. [NOAA photo]

William Lapenta, director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Prediction, died Monday after being rescued from the ocean while swimming in the Town of Duck.

Emergency crews were called to the Pelican Way beach access in the Sanderling area at 4:22 p.m. for a swimmer that was no longer visible from the beach, the Town of Duck said in a news release.

An ocean rescue supervisor who was off duty but in the area saw what he thought to be a swimmer in distress and alerted emergency services. Lifeguards on patrol responded within minutes and pulled an unresponsive Lapenta, 58, from the water.

Duck Surf Rescue, Duck Fire and Police and Dare County EMS initiated CPR and other life-saving measures immediately.

Despite these efforts, Dare County EMS, under the authority of medical control, pronounced Lapenta dead on scene, the release said.

“While the exact factors that caused the death are unknown, Monday‚Äôs surf conditions and a rip current in the area were likely a factor,” the release said.

Gallop Funeral home is handling local arrangements for the family.

As NOAA’s director for environmental predictions, Lapenta’s was responsible for delivering national and global weather, water, climate and space weather guidance, forecasts, warnings and analyses to help save lives and protect property.

Lapenta’s death is the second ocean-related fatality this week on the Outer Banks. On Saturday, a 75-year-old New York man died after being caught in a rip current off Cape Hatteras, the National Park Service said.

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