What started as a traffic stop ended as an ocean search Wednesday in Surf City after a suspect stopped by police jumped into the ocean and started swimming out to sea.
Zachary Kingsbury, 20, was a good swimmer, too, because it took three hours before Surf City Police could find and arrest him.
He was nearly a mile off shore when a police drone lost contact with him, police say. Drone video released Thursday showed Kingsbury was trailed by a 5-foot-long shark for a time, about 60 feet away. (The shark is seen swimming parallel to Kingsbury, in the lower right of the video.) It is unclear if he knew the shark was close by.
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The ordeal began at about 4:15 p.m. Wednesday at a traffic stop on North Shore Drive, Surf City Police said. Officers reported they saw suspicious contraband on the passenger side of the vehicle. Kingsbury, who was driving, was asked to step out. Once out of the vehicle, he “fled the scene on foot, onto the beach, proceeding into the ocean,” police said.
A drone was deployed to keep track of Kingsbury’s progress in the ocean. However, the drone eventually ran out of battery power, reported TV station WWAY.
“After 60 minutes of flight time, Kingsbury was over 4,000 feet offshore and visual contact was lost. At that point, the operation became a rescue operation,” said a statement from Surf City Police.
The search eventually grew to include Pender EMS, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Surf City Fire Department and the North Topsail Beach Police Department, police said.
Finally, around 7:45 p.m., North Topsail Beach Police arrested Kingsbury at the Wicker Avenue beach access in North Topsail Beach. Some stations reported he had to be convinced to come to shore.
Social media response to the daring escape attempt was a mixture of awe and amusement.
“I would’ve drowned after 10 minutes … dude’s an animal,” posted Arturo Cuellar Amanda Espinoza on Facebook.
“A Darwin award Winner without a doubt,” posted Mark Poorman.
Kingsbury is now in the Pender County Jail. Records show he is from Lynnwood in Washington. He is charged with resisting arrest, obstructing an officer, and possession of drug paraphernalia, methamphetamine and up to half an ounce of marijuana, jail records show.