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Originally published: 2013-07-04 13:13:42
Last modified: 2013-07-04 13:14:26

Wilkesboro judge drowns at beach

23rd District Court Judge Mitchell McLean of Wilkesboro drowned Wednesday afternoon off Sunset Beach, according Sunset Beach Police Chief Lisa Massey.

"We received a water rescue call at 3:12 p.m. yesterday," Massey said. "There was a lady and another gentlemen in distress in the water, and her husband and Judge McLean went out in the water to help and were caught in the rip current as well."

Upon arriving at the scene, Massey said first responders were performing CPR on McLean, who was later transported to Brunswick Novant Community Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

McLean, serving a four year term as a district court judge, ran unopposed when he was elected in 2010. The 23rd Judicial District comprises Ashe, Alleghany, Wilkes and Yadkin Counties.  

A second victim, Mary Ann Galway of Waxhaw, was treated at the scene and airlifted to New Hanover Regional Medical Center, according to Massey, but later died.

Wednesday's rip tide was unusually strong, according to Massey, leading to dangerous conditions across the area.

"I think there were a total of seven water rescues yesterday," Massey said. "In addition to these victims, another man died on nearby Ocean Isle as well. There were so many calls we had to call in Horry County, S.C. rescue to assist."

Sunset Beach is just north of the North Carolina/South Carolina border, northeast of Myrtle Beach in Brunswick County. According to the National Weather Service's Forecast Office, a high rip tide risk remains in effect in Sunset Beach through this evening.