National Weather Service employee drowns off Outer Banks coast


DUCK, N.C. (WAVY) — Officials say a National Weather Service employee drowned off the coast of Duck in the Outer Banks.

Town officials said in a news release emergency services were called to the Pelican Way beach access in the Sanderling area shortly before 4:30 p.m. Monday after an off-duty ocean rescue supervisor saw what he thought was a swimmer in distress.

Lifeguards on patrol responded within minutes and pulled an unresponsive 58-year-old man from the water. The man, Dr. William M. Lapenta, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Officials said surf conditions and a rip current in the area were likely factors in Lapenta’s death.

According to the National Weather Service’s website, Lapenta was the director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Prediction.

National Weather Service Director Louis Uccellini issued a statement on Twitter saying, “I am deeply saddened to learn about the loss of my friend and colleague, Bill Lapenta. Bill was a brilliant scientist and mentor to many.”

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