Woman calls Greenville drowning victim a hero for trying to save two women

ATLANTIC BEACH, NC (WITN) – One of the four drowning victims from the rip currents along the coast was a 21-year-old man from Greenville who went back into the ocean to save the people he considered family.

A woman who says Justin Eakes was like a son to her, now considers him a hero.

“Justin Eakes was a very wonderful young man,” Shirley Kelly Williams says.

Williams says Eakes was like a son to her and after his mother died this year, he started referring to Williams as “Ma Kelly”.

“The easy going, big-hearted, lovingest young man,” she describes.

It’s that love, she says, that put Eakes in harms way on Saturday to save her daughter and her son’s girlfriend.

“They had gone out into the water and they were over a little bit over waist deep in, there was a sandbar,” she recalls.

All five at one time had been on that sandbar in the choppy water off Atlantic Beach.

Her son, her daughter’s boyfriend, Channing, and Eakes were near the shore when the girls fell in.

Channing went back to grab them, then Eakes went in to help Channing, but she says Eakes got swept under.

When they found him, she says he had been in the water for about 50 minutes.

Monday morning, Eakes’ family was told he was brain dead.

“They realized it would just be best to let him go,” Williams says.

She says for his sacrifice he should be considered a hero. “This just proved to me there are still good people, selfless people out there and Justin was one of those people.”

After two teens died in rip currents along Emerald Isle, Williams says she spoke to Eakes about what to do if he’s…

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