Horrified mother watches son, boyfriend drown as powerful rip current drags them out to sea

A North Carolina woman is grief-stricken after her young son and boyfriend both died at Atlantic Beach last week when a powerful rip current dragged the pair out to sea.

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Erin Peoples told local media that even though yellow flags were flying, it seemed like a perfect day at the beach and that other people were in the water too.

A yellow flag is a generally a warning that ocean conditions are rough, but not life-threatening.

Peoples said she watched in horror as her 5-year-old son, Liam, and her boyfriend, Austin Potter, 24, were dragged further from shore after wading just a short distance into shallow water, according to WLOS-TV, which sited WRAL-TV.

Peoples said Potter loved her son like his own and tried to save the boy. When he couldn't reach him in time and the pair were pulled out to sea, Potter tried keeping the boy above the water as long as he could, WLOS reported.

“He kept him out,” she said. “He did everything he could to make sure that Liam was going to be OK. He did until he couldn’t.”

When emergency officials arrived on the scene, they quickly found the pair and tried to revive them but were unsuccessful.

Peoples said Potter adored her son.

“Liam was his buddy. He was trying to teach him how to catch the waves,” she said.

She said one of the hardest parts of her loss was telling her 9-year-old son that his little brother wasn't coming home, according to WTVD-TV.

"I think that was probably one of the most heartbreaking amongst everything else is having to come home telling him his best friend wouldn't be coming home," she said.

Rip currents are powerful, narrow channels of fast-moving water.

The National Weather Service offers a guide on how to survive a rip current if you get caught in one and the No. 1 tip is to relax because it's no use swimming against the current. Instead, the NWS advises swimming parallel to shore until you can swim out of the current

Some 100 people every year are killed by rip currents, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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