WAKE FOREST, N.C. (WNCN) — A Wake Forest mom wants to raise awareness about the dangers of rip currents, after her 17-year-old daughter’s death.
Four weeks ago Suzi Merical got the phone call no parent wants to get.
“I don’t want anybody to get the phone call that I got that afternoon about my baby had drowned,” said Merical.
Her daughter Paige, a Wake Forest High School senior, was on an overnight trip with friends to Emerald Isle.
“She was only there one hour. They went and jumped in the beach,” said Merical. “They didn’t know it had been rough that day.”
Merical said when her cell phone rang with an incoming call from her daughter, she knew something was wrong.
“I answered the phone and this lady began telling me they were working on my daughter, that she had drowned and they were trying to get her to breathe again,” said Merical. “All I kept thinking to say was “is she breathing? Is she breathing?”
Paige and her friend Ian Lewis had been swept out by a rip current. Ian drowned. Crews were able to rescue Paige and rushed her to the hospital.
Merical and her husband raced to be by her side.
“We just started talking to her and we just sat there. I never left her side for eight days. I prayed so hard,” said Merical.
After spending a week at Vidant Medical Center, Paige’s doctors declared her brain dead. Merical says her daughter’s donated organs saved five lives.
“She’s like this miracle, as our last name. She was everything to us and we couldn’t lose her, and I think that’s why I’m fighting so hard now,” said Merical.
Merical and her husband are on a mission to alert people about the danger in the water.
In the four weeks since Paige and Ian’s accident, three others have died about being caught in rip currents off the North Carolina coast.
“There’s been a Marine, and two more people this week. If we don’t do something, it’s going to be horrible,” Merical said.
The Mericals are starting a campaign called “Don’t Fight the Rip. Float with It,” to educate people on how to survive in a rip current.
“The way to safely get out of a rip tide is just to relax, flip over on you’re back and you’ll float out of it. Then you can float to shore,” said Merical.
Merical says in addition to educating people about rip currents, she wants to see lifeguards, and police departments do more to protect people if the current is dangerous.
“If it’s not safe to swim, close the beach,” said Merical.
The Mericals hope the carry-out Paige’s legacy and save someone else’s life.
“She was loud, in a good way. She was opinionated, which was good for me. She was sweet and kind,” said Merical. “Her smile was just as big the moon, the sun.”
Merical says they plan to kick off their campaign on June 9th with live music, tee-shirts, and prizes at Sugar Magnolia Cafe in Wake Forest.