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City woman drowns in N.C.

July 19, 2000

City woman drowns in N.C.



By LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer


A Hagerstown woman became the fifth person to drown after getting caught in vicious rip tides in the waters off the coast of southern North Carolina.

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Theresa Ann Houck, 35, of 945 View St., drowned Tuesday while vacationing in North Topsail Beach, N.C. Four other people died Monday in rip tides at nearby beaches, authorities said.

Kevin Houck of Hagerstown said his sister was trying to save her 12-year-old daughter from the strong current but then found herself in trouble.

Ashley Houck tried to hold her mother's head out of the water, said Kevin Houck, who wasn't there, but said he got the information from family members who were.

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The family believes that Theresa Houck died in Ashley's arms before rescue crews could pull them out of the water.

Houck was officially pronounced dead at Camp Lejeune's naval hospital, where she was taken by ambulance after she was pulled from the water and given CPR, said North Topsail Beach Police Chief Daniel Salese.

Ashley survived, as did her aunt, Karen Baum, 32, of Jacksonville, N.C., who had joined the rescue effort, Kevin Houck said.

Theresa Houck and her daughter were in North Carolina visiting with Baum, Theresa Houck's sister.

The undertow carried Baum away from her sister and niece. She was lucky enough to find a sand bar that her toes could touch between waves, Kevin Houck said.

"She barely made it back. She thought she was going to die," he said.

Family members are devastated, but take comfort in Theresa Houck's courage, Kevin Houck, 34, said.

"It was a really brave thing to do," he said.

Theresa Houck moved to Hagerstown from her hometown of Altoona, Pa., about 10 years ago on the promise of good job prospects, her brother said.

She worked at St. Lawrence Cement Co. in Hagerstown.

Theresa Houck enjoyed spending time with her daughter and playing and watching sports, Kevin Houck said. Her favorite football team was the Dallas Cowboys.

"She was just a happy, fun kind of person," he said.

She used to ride motorcycles and play first base in a women's softball league.

Ashley is going to live with her grandmother in the Altoona area, he said.

Funeral services will be held Saturday in Hollidaysburg, Pa.

Four people drowned at Carteret County beaches Monday, two at Atlantic Beach and two at the other end of Bogue Banks in Emerald Isle.

The four were Randall Warren, 46, of Keller, Texas; Joe Cunningham, 65, of New Bern, N.C.; Robert Copeland, 51, of Mechanicsville, Va; and Charlotte Quinn, 66, of Chevy Chase, Md.

Red-flag warnings have been posted along many North Carolina beaches in recent days and police and lifeguards are patrolling beaches warning people to go in no further than knee level.

Although the waters can appear calm, rip currents beneath the surface have been responsible for pulling swimmers out to sea.

If caught in a rip tide or undertow, it's best not to fight the current but try to tread water until you are released by the current or rescued, Salese said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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