W-S native helps rescue two children from rip current at Kure Beach

Antonio Burns

W-S native helps rescue two children from rip current at Kure Beach
April 28
13:22 2021

On Sunday, April 18, Winston-Salem native Antonio Burns, who is a well-known photographer and videographer, was enjoying a nice, relaxing day at Kure Beach when screams from the water caught his attention. 

“The screams just didn’t sound like a playful scream,” Burns said. 

Two children were caught in the rip current and struggling to get out. When he realized what was happening, Burns and Jessica Embry, another beachgoer that day, jumped into action and saved the two girls. Tragically, Embry died. 

A rip current is a strong, localized, and narrow current of water that moves directly away from the shore, cutting through the line of breaking waves like a river running out to sea. When describing the rip current that day, Burns said it was a “two-way pull,” pulling him under the water and even farther from shore.

Before entering the water, Burns said he and Embry, who he had never met before, only exchanged a few words. “She said, ‘You get this girl and I’ll get that girl’ and I said OK,” he said.

Burns said he only remembers coming up for air three times and that the last time he saw Embry, she was holding one of the girls above the water, although she was completely engulfed. “I distinctly remember seeing Miss Embry holding this little girl in the air and all you could see was her arms,” Burns said. 

After battling the current and with help from a few other rescuers, Burns, Embry and the two girls made it shore. On the shore, Burns loss consciousness. He said the last thing he remembers seeing is paramedics trying to revive Embry, but she died at the scene. 

Burns was rushed to the New Hanover Hospital, where he was placed on a ventilator and stayed for four days. It has been reported that the two girls who were rescued are doing fine. Burns credits Embry for leading the rescue mission.

Embry, who was an orchestra teacher at Eugene Ashley High School in Wilmington, helped start 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.

“Long live Miss Embry! That lady was the leader of the operation … she was Batman, I was just Robin,” Burns continued. “I just wish it would’ve played out different because that was a great lady; just from doing my homework on her, that was a phenomenal lady.”

When discussing that day with The Chronicle earlier this week, Burns said he never had any second thoughts about going in to save the girls and if he had to do it again, he would, because if it was his daughter out there, he would want someone to do the same thing he did. 

“I went into that water thinking I have a daughter, I have a niece, I have a little sister … what if the tables were turned and they’re in that situation and I can’t help them?” Burns asked. “Yes, I would want someone to help me, so I’m just blessed to have that spirit and that energy.” 

Moving forward, Burns said he would like to help educate local families on rip currents and water safety. He said with summer just around the corner, it’s critical that we do our homework 

 “Please do your homework on these beaches and water safety. If you’re not an experienced swimmer, go with someone who is,” Burns said. “We have to take it upon ourselves to educate ourselves on water safety.”

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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