Witnesses and ECU staff remember 19-year-old drowning victim

Body of ECU student found in Pine Knoll Shores

Witnesses and ECU staff remember Braxton Horton (Reporter: Michael Hennessey)

PINE KNOLL SHORES, CARTERET COUNTY - Family and friends of 19-year-old East Carolina University student Braxton Horton are trying to heal in the wake of the discovery of his body on Pine Knoll Shores.

Horton was found after a 26 hour search, beginning when he was swept away by a rip current Saturday afternoon.

Monday, witnesses and people who knew him reflected on his memory. "He was in pretty good shape he wasn't a real strong swimmer," said Pine Knoll Shores Mayor Ken Jones.

Sadhya Sabatino was there when authorities were called to respond Saturday. "It's a personal tragedy that's powerful beyond belief I don't think it gets any worse than that," said Sabatino, who was planning a swim in the ocean the day of the drowning, but later reconsidered.

"My heart really goes out to them it's heartbreaking," witness Joseph Keasler said of Horton's family.

Dr. David Rudel was Horton's biology professor at ECU. In a statement released to Newschannel 12 he said:

"Concerning Braxton Horton, he was a polite outgoing student.  He always took the time to say hello to me in passing and asked questions.  He was conscientious; he came to every class, tried hard on every weekly quiz, and came to every outside of class review section I offered.  A very good work ethic.  He was a student in my section of 'Principles of Biology,' which has a reputation for being challenging.  He was a very promising young student."

Horton was working at Camp Seagull in Morehead City for the summer. Sunday night co-workers at the camp held a small vigil in his honor.

They are planning another larger ceremony for later this summer.


The body of an ECU student was recovered in the surf in Pine Knoll Shores Sunday evening just after 7 p.m., according to Pine Knoll Shores Mayor Ken Jones. 

A rip current pulled 19-year-old Braxton Horton underwater Saturday afternoon; the discovery ended more than 24 hours of searching.

A couple walking along the beach found Horton's body approximately 200 yards east of the Trinity Center, 618 Salter Path Rd., which is the location where the rip current pulled Hamilton out to sea.

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Pine Knoll Shores Mayor Ken Jones said a 19-year-old man was pulled by a rip current into the sea Saturday.

Braxton Horton works at Camp Seagull, and got caught in a rip current along with three others at around 4:30 p.m. "He panicked and pushed them away and of course went under with the rip current," said Jones.

"There were strong young men on the beach and they weren't able to save him so there was  nothing at that point I think any of us could do," said Sadhya Sabatino, a witness to the incident.

Mayor Jones said first responders searched through the whole night looking for Horton, who was said to be a poor swimmer.

Officials stress that if you're caught in a rip tide the most important thing to do is stay calm. That way you can save your breath until you're pushed back to the surface.

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Crews in Pine Knoll Shores are searching for a swimmer who got caught in a rip current and didn't make it back to the shore.

The swimmer, identified as an ECU student, has been missing since approximately 4:30 p.m. Saturday, according to a Pine Knoll Shores spokesperson.

The male swimmer works at Camp Seagull, and was at the beach with three co-workers.

All four got caught in a rip current, and the now-missing man did not make it back to the beach, the spokesperson said.

The search is now a recovery effort, meaning crews no longer expect to find the swimmer alive.

The search location is centered at the Trinity Center, 618 Salter Path Road.

The age of the swimmer was not available, and his name has not been released.

The victim was an inexperienced swimmer, the spokesperson said.

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