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‘A profound loss’: N.C. teacher dies while trying to save two children caught in rip current

Published: Apr. 19, 2021 at 9:06 AM AKDT|Updated: Apr. 19, 2021 at 11:55 AM AKDT
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KURE BEACH, N.C. (WECT/Gray News) - A New Hanover County teacher died while trying to save two children caught in a rip current in the waters off Kure Beach Sunday evening.

According to a news release from the Kure Beach Police Department, emergency crews were dispatched to the area of N. Avenue Beach access around 5:45 p.m. after receiving a report of multiple swimmers in distress with witnesses saying two children were caught in a rip current.

“In an attempt to rescue the children, several bystanders and members of the Kure Beach Fire Department, entered the water and successfully brought the children to shore,” the release stated.

One of the rescuers, Jessica Embry, who is a fine arts teacher at Ashley High School and the director of the school’s orchestra, became distressed as she helped to save the children.

Embry was taken to shore and life-saving measures were performed but weren’t successful, according to the release. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Jessica Embry, who is a fine arts teacher at Ashley High School in New Hanover County and the...
Jessica Embry, who is a fine arts teacher at Ashley High School in New Hanover County and the director of the school’s orchestra, died after she helped to save two children.(Source: WECT)

“The Kure Beach Police Department commends the heroic efforts and sacrifice made by Jessica Embry, bystanders, and rescuers. Jessica Embry, along with all involved, are credited with saving the lives of the children,” the release stated.

Patrick McCarty, the principal at Ashley High School, called Embry’s death a profound loss for the school and the community.

“I struggle to speak about this incident to others because of the type of person Jessica Embry was personally and professionally. Ms. Embry worked at our school for nearly nine years as an Orchestra Teacher. Ms. Embry was also a deeply committed advocate for Ashley High School. In addition to her passion in the classroom, she loved the arts and played a significant part in our community,” McCarty said in a statement from the school district.

Embry was credited with starting a group called “United Sound,” which paired special needs students with those in her orchestra class. Through that partnership, the students were able to get hands-on experience with instruments and learn how to play music. The group even played the national anthem during Brunswick County’s last Special Olympics event, district officials said.

“Ms. Embry’s impact was profound and she will be greatly missed by all,” McCarty added.

“Jessica Embry was a sister, a daughter, a missionary, incredible orchestra teacher, and a mentor both in our Wilmington Community and in the NHCS Arts family to her colleagues and her students,” said Jacki Booth, the lead arts director for New Hanover County Schools. “She approached every day as a challenge to be a better person and to help more people in the process.”

Embry joined New Hanover County Schools in 2010 and worked at Myrtle Grove Middle School prior to teaching at Ashley High School.

District officials say grief counselors are currently at Ashley High School to help students and staff. The counselors will remain at the school for as long as needed.

Embry was also a member of Lifepoint Church which released a statement Monday morning about her death, which read in part: “Jessica was a sister, a daughter, a teammate, a teacher, a missionary, a mentor, a band member, and a friend. She has been a part of the Lifepoint family for over 10 years and she will be greatly missed.”

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