ATLANTIC BEACH, N.C. — The woman who lost her son and boyfriend after they drowned off of Atlantic Beach Tuesday says to cherish the ones you love because everything can change in an instant.
Erin Peoples said she and 24-year-old Austin Potter started dating almost one year ago. Potter, who graduated from North Johnston High School, met Peoples at the Longhorn Steakhouse in Morehead City where they worked.
"He is one of the most unselfish people that I ever met in my entire life. He would give anything to anybody. The skin off his back. He would do it," said Peoples.
Peoples said Potter's selflessness carried over the relationship with her two young sons. She said 5-year-old Liam wanted to do everything his older brother did.
"For only being 5 years old, he taught all of us such a lesson. He was so caring to everybody. It didn't matter who you were. He wanted to be around you, he wanted to talk to you, he wanted to get to know you," said Peoples.
Peoples said Liam loved cars, dinosaurs, and the ocean.
"He loved the water. Loved the water. We've been out to the beach 15, 20 times since it warmed up. Couldn't keep him out of it," she said.
On Tuesday, Peoples said a quick fishing trip at Oceana Pier ended with Potter and Liam deciding to go for a swim.
"There's a sandbar out there. The water was knee high. Nothing different than anything we've done in the previous trips we made. Before I even knew that anything was wrong, everything was wrong," said Peoples.
The Atlantic Beach Fire Department said the pair were pulled out by the rip current. When the two were rescued from the water, they were unresponsive and not breathing.
The pair were rushed to Carteret Health Care where resuscitation efforts continued. Hospital officials confirmed that both passed away, officials said in a release.
The Atlantic Beach Fire Department said they were swimming in a red flag zone when they were pulled out by the rip current.
Peoples said she noticed yellow flags when they put their stuff down on the beach.
"They were yellow, which is no different that any day we had recently. For us, it was a normal day and normal can turn dangerous and scary very quickly," Peoples said.
Now, left grieving the loss of her son and boyfriend, Peoples says it's important to hold dear to loved ones.
"Just always, always cherish those that are close to you, that matter to you," she said.
The Atlantic Beach Police Chief said this marked the fourth and fifth deaths along the Crystal Coast this season.