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Family, friends of missing woman continue search

From left, islander Donald Austin talks with D.J. Taft, Debbie Costello and James Weekley about their search for Weekley’s missing niece, Savannah Grant. Photo: C. Leinbach

By Connie Leinbach

James Weekley and his friends are doing whatever it takes to find some resolution to the whereabouts of his niece, Savannah Grant, 27, who went missing in a boating accident Saturday off Portsmouth Island.

Weekley is a brother of the missing woman’s mother, Tonya Weekley. He, along with close friends D.J. Taft and Debbie Costello, all of Grafton, West Virginia, arrived on Ocracoke Island on Tuesday after the U.S. Coast Guard ceased its searching on Monday.

A Coast Guard spokeswoman said North Carolina Fish & Wildlife has jurisdiction because this is considered a boating accident.

According to the three, Grant was on Ocracoke with Jason Quickle, her boyfriend, and John Pearson. The three had been camping on Portsmouth and left sometime Saturday to come back to Ocracoke. That was the same day the National Weather Service issued warnings about a low-pressure system off the coast that was forecast to bring strong, possible gale-force, winds, with wind gusts of 45+ mph, across the Outer Banks.

Ernie Doshier, Ocracoke’s assistant fire chief and captain of the “Gecko” sport fishing boat, said he and Deputy Sheriff Blackburn Warner, after hearing the 911 call, took Doshier’s boat and got into the inlet about 20 minutes before the Coast Guard.

When the Coast Guard got there, the light was low, he said.

“The rain squalls were coming through there and you couldn’t see nothing,” Doshier said. “The tide was rolling out of there. It took them to the ocean. There’s no doubt about that because that’s where they found ‘em,” Doshier said about the two male survivors.

A Coast Guard press release on Monday said they found a conscious male survivor (Jason Quickle) alongside a green canoe approximately 2.8 miles offshore of Drum Inlet at approximately 9:54 a.m. on Sunday.

Quickle was hoisted into the aircraft and transported to Carteret Hospital in Morehead City, Carteret County. He was released on Tuesday, according to Weekley.

A second survivor, John Pearson, who made the 911 call, was found ashore on Great Island on the Cape Lookout National Seashore by a good Samaritan, at which point he reported swimming to shore and had last seen Savannah in the early morning hours of Sunday, the Coast Guard said.

Weekley, Taft and Costello are one of two groups searching for Grant. Weekley said on Friday that they are seeking help from anyone who could possibly help locate the missing woman – any agency or volunteer groups, those with tracking dogs or whatever that could aid in the search along Portsmouth, Cedar Island and Great Island on the Cape Lookout National Seashore.

Weekly and Costello try not to break down as they talk about Savannah, who has cystic fibrosis, and her possible fate.

But the trio won’t take no for an answer, Taft said.

“As long as it takes to find some closure, we’ll be here,” Weekley said. “We probably won’t stop even after we get home. We’re gonna continue to get answers.”

Taft has 15 years of experience as an emergency responder.

“I’ve never come back empty handed without some closure for a family,” he said.

Part of that closure will be to piece together what really happened since the three have gotten conflicting stories about various aspects of the incident.

Weekley’s truck.

To help cover costs, Weekley’s sister, Rachel, set up a GoFundMe page at Bring Savannah Home.

Donald Austin took the group to Portsmouth on Tuesday where they canvased the beach.

On Thursday, a Marine pilot took Weekley and Taft up in a Cessna and searched Portsmouth Island for four hours, Weekley said. They went almost to Jacksonville.

On Friday, they were hoping the Civil Air Patrol can help.

“We’ve contacted someone with drones,” Weekley said. The trio also will get flyers made with Savannah’s photo.

A few locals with airplanes have been searching, Weekley said, and an off-island homeowner has donated the use of her island home for the group to stay in, Costello said.

Weekley said islanders have been very concerned and helpful.

“Everybody’s just been outstanding down here,” he said.

Savannah Grant and a dog are still missing after a boating accident Saturday in Ocracoke Inlet off Portsmouth. The dog was not mentioned in Coast Guard dispatches.

Soren Arn-Oelschlegel: 1980 to 2021

Soren Arn-Oelschlegel

A memorial service for Soren Arn-Oelschlegel, 41, who was killed Oct. 8 by a fatal gunshot wound, will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, in the Altmeyer Funeral Home- Southside Chapel, 5033 Rouse Drive Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Arn-Oelschlegel, a son of Ocracoke realtor Betty Jane “B.J.” Oelschlegel and Tim Arn, was shot by 84-year-old Albert A. Baglione of Alabama as the two were in the Portsmouth, Virginia, home that Baglione had signed a contract to buy sight-unseen, according to published news sources.

Responding to a call at around 5:59 p.m., police found Baglione with a weapon in his hand and told police he killed his realtor, according to a Portsmouth Virginia police press release.

Then, Baglione closed the door to his home and police heard a gunshot. A SWAT team entered the residence to find that Baglione had taken his own life and also found Arn-Oelschlegel inside with a fatal gunshot wound.

Officials have not released further details and the case remains under investigation.

Arn-Oelschlegel was born Sept. 10, 1980.

From 2003 to May 2021, he served as the office manager for his father’s home inspection business.

In 2015, he became a full-time agent, having grown up with a mother in real estate and a father in general contracting and home inspection.

He garnered multiple awards for his stellar work as a realtor and lived up to the family name. In the process, he continuously strived (and succeeded) to live up to his tag line, “Unusual Name, Uncommon Service.”

Arn-Oelschlegel was predeceased by his paternal grandfather Edward C. Arn; his maternal grandparents, Margaret J. Oelschlegel and Lawrence S. Oelschlegel; and his first cousin, Rob Kell.

In addition to his parents, surviving to celebrate his life and cherish his memory are his stepmother, Sandi Arn; sister Ellice Arn-Oelschlegel of Ocracoke, brother Lasse Arn-Oelschlegel, and sister Hannah Lankford (Ben Lankford); also his paternal grandmother, Patricia Jane Arn; a host of cousins, aunts, and uncles; and his beloved partner, Daijreous Poole.

There is something truly special about building on someone’s legacy and the family would like to extend the opportunity to support those causes that Soren held dear by sharing the following ways in which you can be part of his life’s legacy of kindness, respect and hope for a better, more inclusive future.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the following organizations:

Hampton Roads Pride – Soren Arn-Oelschlegel Scholarship Fund at: https://hamptonroadspride.org/donate/. Enter the note: “Soren’s Legacy” to donate to this restricted fund.

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) at: https://nami.org/Home and dedicate in memory of Soren Arn-Oelschlegel with recipient email address: sorenslegacy@gmail.com

The Trevor Project at: https://www.thetrevorproject.org/donate/ and dedicate in memory of Soren Arn-Oelschlegel with recipient email address: sorenslegacy@gmail.com.

Sea turtle stranding training at the Ocracoke Community Center this Sunday


By Peter Vankevich

Those wishing to volunteer this winter in rescuing cold-stunned and stranded sea turtles will have the opportunity to get training this Sunday (Oct. 17), 1 p.m. in the Ocracoke Community Center, 999 Irvin Garrish Highway.

The session will last approximately two hours.

Former islander Pat Garber holds a cold-stunned green turtle found on Ocracoke Jan. 23, 2020. Photo: P. Vankevich

Karen Clark, wildlife biologist for North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission, Amy Thompson, Ocracoke’s supervisory biological technician for the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and Frank Welles, volunteer coordinator for sea turtle stranding for Hatteras and Ocracoke, will conduct this session.

To be a volunteer, training is mandatory and will cover sea turtle stranding patrol, response, sea turtle species identification, documentation and transport.

Those who have received training in the past are encouraged to attend as a refresher and hear of any updates in procedures.

Outer Banks sea turtle volunteers regularly monitor the sound and ocean shorelines after a cold spell, looking for cold-stunned sea turtles in need of assistance.

Cold stunning is a condition similar to hypothermia that is caused by dropping water temperatures. Sea turtles are cold-blooded reptiles that depend on the temperature of their surroundings to maintain their body temperature.

During a cold snap when temperatures decline below 50 degrees, they become lethargic, experiencing decreased circulation and slowing of other body functions that causes them to float to the surface. At that time, winds and currents may push them onto land.

A cold-stunned turtles may appear dead but may not be. If found alive, they can be transported to the Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation (STAR) Center at the N.C. Aquarium on Roanoke Island.

“Most sea turtles in this region this time of the year are juvenile greens, one to two years old,” according to Paul Doshkov, a National Seashore biological science technician.

Captain Reid Robinson: 1954 to 2021

Capt. Reid Robinson, right, in a 2018 photo captured from Facebook

Captain Reid William Robinson, 67, of Ocracoke, died at his home Saturday, Oct. 9.

Born Sept. 16, 1954, in Baltimore, Maryland, he was a son of the late Wanda Simpson and Wilbur Robinson.

Reid was a commercial fishing captain of the charter boat “The Devereaux” on Ocracoke.

He is survived by two siblings, Henry Robinson of Berlin, Maryland, and Bethae Robinson of Harrington, Delaware; and several nieces and nephews.

In keeping with his wishes, there will be no service at this time.

Twiford Funeral Homes, Outer Banks is assisting the family with arrangements.

Condolences and memories may be shared at www.TwifordFH.com.

Time to ‘shellebrate’ N.C. Oyster Week Oct. 11 to 15

A Devil Shoals oyster. Photo by Richard Taylor

By Richard Taylor

As charter members of the new North Carolina Oyster Trail, Ocracoke Mariculture has added educational tourism to its thriving oyster-farming business.

Ocracoke Mariculture is operated by Fletcher and Heather O’Neal, who have been growing their popular eastern oysters off Devil Shoals since 2015.

They are part of the N.C. Oyster Trail, which began in May 2020 as a project of North Carolina Coastal Federation, N.C. Sea Grant and the N.C. Shellfish Growers Association, with the purpose to teach oysters’ value for eating and protecting the environment.

Fletcher O’Neal, right, shows a floating oyster cage to mariculture tour patron Evan Meyers. Photo by Richard Taylor

The oyster industry “shellebrates” its tasty product during N.C. Oyster Week Oct. 11 to 15.

In addition to Ocracoke Mariculture, island trail members include Woccocon Oysters, Howard’s Pub & Raw Bar, Ocracoke Oyster Company, Plum Pointe Kitchen and The Flying Melon.

“The Oyster Trail is a great resource to help connect growers and restaurants with the public,” said Sarah Bodin of the North Carolina Coastal Federation.

This cultural food trail teaches about the oyster’s food value and its environmental benefits. Oyster farming contributes $20 million to the state’s seafood economy — a figure the industry hopes will grow to $100 million by 2030.

Islander Stevie Wilson began a new oyster farm this year, The Ocock Oyster Company, and his four-acre lease is in the Devil Shoals area of the Pamlico Sound beside the O’Neal’s, Woccocon and Clam Lady Jane’s farms.

Wilson hopes to begin harvesting his oysters by the winter or the spring.

An oysterer who harvested the bivalves manually with tongs for 30 years and who previously owned Woccocon Oysters, Wilson said he’s happy to be growing oysters again.

“I think there’s plenty of market for all of what is grown,” he said about Ocracoke’s farmers.

This summer, the O’Neals began the Mariculture Farm Tours and sunset trips.

“Mariculture is a way Fletcher can be happy working on the water,” Heather said. “It’s a year-round thing.” Their son Hunter, one of the couple’s five children, works the farm.

The O’Neals grow a hybrid of the Eastern Oyster (Crassostrea virginica, the state oyster). The hybrids don’t reproduce, thus allowing them to become plump and juicy – excellent for eating, Wilson explained.

Oyster farmers buy hybrid seeds each year and oysters mature in 10 to 12 months.

Evan Meyer tastes a fresh oyster. Photo by Richard Taylor

Tending their farm takes daily work.

“We handle them six days a week, turning and moving the cages,” Fletcher said.

Since oysters are filter feeders and eat algae, they clean the water and thus the environment. 

“They ingest all these particles and produce a substance that encapsulates the pollutants, which then drops to the bottom,” said Heather, who also is the exceptional children’s teacher assistant at Ocracoke School.

“They’re not taking anything out of the water except for the things that shouldn’t be out there,” Fletcher added.

Farm tour trips take visitors on a bumpy, exhilarating 10-mile adventure aboard a Carolina Skiff from the Community Square docks out to their oyster farm.

There, patrons get to see first-hand, and taste, how hard work and patience produce great-tasting oysters prized by fine chefs all along the East Coast.

Out in the water, the O’Neals dump freshly harvested oysters onto a culling table, sort them by size and place the oysters into plastic totes.

“Everything’s done right out there on the farm,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher said that hurricanes and marine engine oil residue have no effect on oysters.

The family prepares the harvest for market at their Lighthouse Road home then sends them off — locally to the Ocracoke Seafood Company, Native Seafood, DAJIO, The Flying Melon, Plum Pointe Kitchen; and to other locations up the beach, Raleigh and to neighboring states.

The O’Neals say oyster-farming regulations are not as stringent as for the commercial fishing industry.

“They monitor us to make sure we farm inside the right area,” Fletcher said. “You have to plant and produce so much during a year just to keep your lease.”

The O’Neals look forward to farming a new five-acre lease just outside Silver Lake soon.

“This new system will be a whole lot less labor intensive than what we’re using now,” Fletcher said. “We’re also going to be raising some clams and try scallops again. We love what we’re doing.”

Floating oyster containers. Photo by Richard Taylor

Ocracoke events Oct. 11 to 17–updated

Windy conditions on Ocracoke on Monday, Oct.11, will give way to sunny skies the rest of the week. Photo: C. Leinbach

Tuesday, Oct. 12
Ocracoke Civic & Business Assn. civic affairs meeting, 7 pm. Ocracoke Community Center. (Postponed from Oct. 5)
7 to 7:10 pm: Deputy Director NCDOT Ferry Division, Jed Dixon
7:10 to 7:20 pm: Questions for Jed
7:20 to 7:30 pm NPS District Ranger, Ed Fuller
7:30 to 7:40pm: Questions for Ed
7:40 to 7:50 pm: Hyde County Sheriff’s Office Captain Jason Daniels
7:50 to 8 pm: Questions for Jason
8:10 to 8:20 pm: Hyde County Commissioner, Randal Mathews
8:20 to 8:30pm: Questions for Randal

Wednesday, Oct. 13
Ocracoke Community Library, temporarily in the Deepwater Theater, School Road. Open from 3 to 7 pm Monday through Friday; 9 am to 1 pm Saturdays. Storytime for babies and preschoolers 10 am Wednesdays.–cancelled. Returns next week.

Trivia, Mini Bar/Ocracoke Coffee Company porch, 6 pm

Thursday, Oct. 14
The Breeze: Barefoot Wade, 9 pm

Friday, Oct. 15
The Breeze, The Reef, 9 pm

Saturday, Oct. 16
Ocracoke Oyster Company: 30Three, 6:30 to 9:30 pm

Coyote Music Den, 13 Cabana Dr.: Coyote Backyard Concerts, Saturdays in October, 7:30 pm. Marcy, Lou & Martin. All concerts are sliding scale “pay what you can” at the gate. No reservations. Walk, bike or taxi. NO ON-SITE PARKING but the venue has a lot nearby. Visit www.coyotemusic.net for details.

DAJIO, The Ray McCallister Band, 8 to 10:30 pm

The Breeze, The Reef, 9 pm

Sunday, Oct. 17
Ocracoke United Methodist Church, potluck for Pastor Logan and family, noon.

Two people found; search continues for a third off Portsmouth Island

A U.S. Coast Guard coastal patrol boat. Photo: C. Leinbach

From our news services

The Coast Guard reported this evening that it is still searching for a 27-year-old woman in the vicinity of Portsmouth Island after receiving a call Saturday afternoon of a capsized canoe with passengers in Ocracoke Inlet.

Today (Oct. 10), the Coast Guard said in a press release that watch standers received a 911 call around 4:15 on Saturday of a capsized canoe with two people aboard.

Watch standers subsequently lost communication with the person who called in, who was a member of the same group.

A Jayhawk helicopter air crew located a conscious male survivor alongside a green canoe approximately 2.8 miles offshore of Drum Inlet at approximately 9:54 a.m. today.

The survivor was hoisted into the aircraft and transported to Carteret Hospital in Morehead City, Beaufort County.

A second survivor, the original reporting source, was found ashore on Great Island by a good Samaritan, at which point he reported swimming to shore and had last seen the missing person in the early Sunday morning hours.

Portsmouth Island is located south of Ocracoke Inlet from the village of Ocracoke. It is a tidal island connected, under most conditions, to north end of the North Core Banks.

Searching are:

  • An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter aircrew from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City
  • An HC-130 Hercules aircraft aircrew from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City
  • An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter aircrew from Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City
  • A 24-foot shallow water special purpose craft boatcrew from Coast Guard Station Hatteras Inlet
  • A 47-foot Motor Life Boat boatcrew from Coast Guard Station Hatteras Inlet
  • A 47-foot Motor Life Boat boatcrew from Coast Guard Station Fort Macon
  • Coast Guard Cutter Seahawk, an 87-foot Coastal Patrol Boat

Coast Guard, partner agencies searching for two people in the water near Portsmouth Island

The U.S. Coast Guard station at Hatteras. Photo: C. Leinbach

This information will be updated as more information becomes available.

As of 11 a.m. today (Oct. 10), the Coast Guard was still searching for two people in the water in the vicinity of Portsmouth Island in Ocracoke Inlet on Saturday.

Watch standers at Coast Guard Sector North Carolina command center received a report via 911 at approximately 4:15 p.m. on Saturday of a capsized canoe with two people aboard. The caller witnessed the canoe capsize but reported having 1 percent battery life remaining on his cell phone, according to a Coast Guard press release.

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter aircrew from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City was launched as well as a 24-foot shallow water special purpose craft boat crew from Coast Guard Station Hatteras Inlet. 

No more information was available at 1:45 p.m. Sunday.

Also aiding in the search are:

• Hyde County Sheriff’s Department

• North Carolina Wildlife

• North Carolina Park Services

A late summer sojourn to Cape Lookout

Cape Lookout Lighthouse (1859) at the Cape Lookout National Seashore; historic keepers’ quarters (1872), and old summer kitchen.

Text and photos by Ann Ehringhaus

Each morning I say hello to North Carolina’s Cape Lookout diamond lighthouse as I walk nearby.

I’m watching a black and yellow garden “writing” spider hanging over the path. Somehow today it’s moved to another tree, still high above the path. 

I’m watching full moon tide swing up and down the small shoreline along Core Sound at the Lightkeeper’s Quarters where I’m lodging for my Park Service job. This is a place for noticing small things, but each day as I learn more history I’m amazed at how many big things have happened here. 

Cape Lookout lighthouse, 1812, was first a wooden, red and white-striped lighthouse, but was determined not to be tall enough, or bright enough, to give mariners ample warning before reaching shoals which surround this point.

In 1859 the current lighthouse was completed at 163 feet and is painted with the distinctive black and white diamond pattern.

I’ve learned the center of the black diamonds points north-south, and the white centers point east-west. This helped ships from afar to navigate more safely in the daytime. Through the decades the light has been operated by whale oil, fuel oil, electrical cable from Harkers Island, and today by solar panels just out of sight. Cape Lookout lighthouse is one of the five tallest lighthouses on the East coast (Cape Hatteras is the tallest). I’ve met many people this week on journeys to see all six N.C. lighthouses. 

The lighthouse sits near the southern tip of South Core Banks while historic Portsmouth Village sits at the top of North Core banks.

These two stretches of Cape Lookout National Park are separated by one or two inlets which open and close with hurricane waters seeking outlets to the Atlantic Ocean. Together North and South Core banks are approximately 56 miles long, all wilderness beach.

As I sweep the downstairs rooms of this keeper’s house, I wonder how many people have done the same since 1872.

When I looked up the names of lightkeepers through the years, I was surprised to find Joseph Merritt Burrus served here in 1912 for about a month. 

Capt. Joe was a lighthouse keeper at Ocracoke for approximately 16 years, including World War II, and built an island home for his family in retirement. I bought his house in 1982 and named it Oscar’s House for Captain Joe’s son. Perhaps Capt. Joe helped at Cape Lookout Light for someone who became sick or died in 1912.

The centers of the black diamonds point north-south, and the white centers point east-west to help ships from afar to navigate more safely in the daytime.

Today the beautiful sturdy keeper’s quarters offers a small museum on the first floor, open 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with exhibits about the shoals, the keepers’ lives, and displays of whale and sea turtle bones, pelican beaks, shells and more. Near the museum is uninhabited Cape Village historic district with a few old houses, a Life Saving station, and a Coast Guard station.

Cape Lookout was also active during the 1860s. After Union troops captured Fort Macon near Morehead City, confederates raided the Lookout lighthouse in 1864, taking the lens so it couldn’t be used by Union troops.

In 1865 the lens was returned to Raleigh, and in 1867 the Civil War damage was repaired. In 1933 the light was electrified, and the Lighthouse Service was incorporated into the U.S. Coast Guard in 1939.

In 2003 the lighthouse was transferred to the National Park Service, and it remains under their care today.

Migrating monarch butterflies, mating dragonflies and anoles can be found all over Cape Lookout.

Before and after work I enjoy slipping into Core Sound, just behind the Keeper’s Quarters.

As I float in Cape waters, I love seeing the diamond lighthouse and old keeper’s house watching over this watery opening, cut by the 1933 hurricane.

I love being part of the history and the present of this beautiful place. After swimming, I sit on the keeper’s porch to catch a cooling breeze, feeling very content and happy to be alive.

Reference: “Cape Lookout Lighthouse Historic Structure Report,” by Joseph K. Oppermann, architect, Winston-Salem, NC, 2009.

If you travel to Harkers Island, be sure to visit Core Sound Waterfowl Museum, with tributes to island traditions of hunting, carving and other interesting seasonal exhibits.

Ann Ehringhaus

Ann Ehringhaus is a photographer and author of Ocracoke Portrait (1988) and Ten Thousand Breakfasts (2013), both about life on Ocracoke. For 33 years. she operated Oscar’s House Bed and Breakfast, the subject of her 2013 book.

NWS is watching low pressure system off coast–updated

This graphic is as of 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 9.
This graphic is as of 8 a.m. Friday, Oct. 8.

From our news sources

Oct. 9, 1 p.m., update from the National Weather Service Newport/Morehead City:

A gale warning is in effect this evening (Oct. 9) across North Carolina coastal waters from the Outer Banks to Carteret County as a low pressure system offshore will bring wind gusts of 40 to 45+ mph with seas building to 8 to 12+ feet tonight along the eastern Carolina beaches.

An area of low pressure off the Southeast coast has the potential to develop into a tropical or subtropical storm over the weekend, the National Weather Service out of Newport/Morehead City reported today.

The NWS said in a press release that there is uncertainty in both the development of this system and where it would eventually track over this weekend.

If the system develops and moves close to the N.C. coast by Sunday, we could see several impacts including strong winds, coastal flooding and ocean overwash (worsened by King Tides this weekend), the NWS said.

You can find more information on these warnings at: https://www.weather.gov/mhx/

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