TOPSAIL BEACH, PENDER COUNTY - Wednesday was the day that 28 endangered sea turtles had the chance to swim where they belong. Several volunteers at the Sea Turtle Hospital in Topsail Beach says these turtles -- loggerheads, Kemp's Ridleys and green turtles -- are healthy enough to be released back into the ocean.
"There is no question that every single turtle has a piece of our heart," said Jean Beasley, director of the hospital. "And so when they leave, a piece of our heart goes with them."
Beasley says many of these turtles are brought to the hospital for various injuries and illnesses, many because of the cold or humans.
She says beach goers can help by picking up trash or leaving nesting turtles alone.
"Don't dig holes in the beach and leave them," Beasley said. "At the end of the day, fill them in because a turtle can fall in and die."
But beach goers are letting these turtles be the ones to play in the ocean.
These turtle releases only happen twice a year, and about 350 people came to the release to see these turtles go home.
Former hospital intern Amanda Tanguay says it's a labor of love.
"A lot of people come and see basically their work come to the end," Tanguay said. "A lot of volunteers have worked with these turtles over the summer, so they can kind of see them go from sick turtles or injured turtles to healthy turtles."
Carl and Lynn Norwood helped nurse "Commodore" back to health.
"I carried him out, and I put him down, and he swam like the dickens," Carl said. "He really took off fast."
"When Commodore smelled the ocean, he went crazy," Lynn said. "He's so thrilled to be going home."
After spending about six months recovering, these turtles are now out on their own.
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