National Weather Service official drowns in Outer Banks; ‘He will be missed,’ NWS director says

DUCK, N.C. — An official with the National Weather Service died Monday when he drowned in the Outer Banks, according to the Town of Duck.

William Lapenta, 58, was the director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Prediction.

At about 4:22 p.m. Monday, an off-duty ocean rescue supervisor called emergency services to the Pelican Way beach access in Duck after seeing a swimmer in distress.

Lifeguards on patrol responded within minutes and pulled Lapenta out of the water. He was unresponsive.

Duck Surf Rescue, Duck Fire, police and Dark County EMS tried to save Lapenta’s life.

By about 5 p.m., he had died.

The town reports that officials do not know the exact factors that led to his death, but surf conditions and a rip current were likely factors.

NWS Director Louis Uccellini tweeted his sympathies Wednesday, writing, “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. He will be missed by all of us in the NWS and NOAA.”


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