A beach outing with two friends on a summer-like day turned tragic late Monday afternoon when a Fairfax, Va., man died after he became caught in a rip current off Quansoo.

According to a police account of the incident, Donald Reagan, 64, had gone swimming with his friend, a 68-year-old Vineyard man who has not been identified, when they were swept out in the rips near the cut in the Tisbury Great Pond. The Vineyard man tried unsuccessfully to help his friend, but made it to shore and called for help. Mr. Reagan was subsequently rescued by a Coast Guard swimmer, but despite the efforts emergency responders at the scene in the remote area, he was later pronounced dead at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, according to the police account.

The incident prompted a regional search and rescue and mass mutual-aid response in West Tisbury.

The Cape and Islands district attorney’s office is calling the death an apparent drowning, and said the matter remains under investigation by West Tisbury police, state police detectives assigned to the DA’s office, and the office of the chief medical examiner. An early statement from the DA that listed the wrong age for Mr. Reagan was later corrected by state police.

The incident occurred shortly after 4 p.m. Monday.

The Atlantic-facing beach near Quansoo and Long Point has seen intense surf in recent weeks, with hurricanes and tropical storms churning up strong waves and rip tides on the Island’s south shore. The Tisbury Great Pond was also recently opened — a practice to help improve water quality in the pond that can generate strong currents near shore. According to a statement from state police spokesman David Procopio after the incident, Mr. Reagan and his friend were kayaking off Long Point Beach in West Tisbury before they entered the water to go swimming and became caught in the rip tide. The swimmers tried unsuccessfully to stay together, the statement said. “After the friend attempted to save Reagan, the current eventually separated the men,” the statement said. “The friend . . . was unable to reach Reagan again. The friend swam to shore and called 911. The Coast Guard recovered the victim’s body and transported him to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. He was, sadly, pronounced deceased around 6 p.m. Monday.”

Recounting events with additional detail, the statement also said: “At 4:04 p.m. Monday the West Tisbury police and Tri-Town fire rescue and EMS were dispatched to Quansoo Beach in West Tisbury for a report of two male swimmers who had been caught in the rip current. One of the swimmers had been able to eventually exit the water, crawl on the beach to his cell phone and call the Dukes County Regional Emergency 911 Communications Center.

“That man reported that he and Reagan were swimming and got caught in a rip current, and that he was unable to save his friend, who had not made it out of the water.

“At approximately 4:53 p.m., the U.S. Coast Guard recovered Reagan and brought him to shore, where first responders performed CPR. A Coast Guard helicopter transported Reagan from the beach to the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, where he was later pronounced deceased.”

The statement continued:

“Investigation by MSP Trooper Dustin Shaw established that early Monday afternoon Reagan and his friend launched their kayaks in Tisbury Great Pond, located in West Tisbury. After paddling for a while, they beached the kayaks and their personal flotation devices on the beach in the area known as “the cut,” a large opening in the beach sand that separates the Tisbury Great Pond from the Atlantic Ocean at Quansoo Beach, an area known for high surf and rip currents. The two men then went for a swim in the ocean, and after several minutes a strong east rip current pulled them further away from the shore. “The men fought to extricate themselves from the current and the friend tirelessly attempted to hold onto and help Reagan when the latter began struggling. Unfortunately the strength of the current eventually separated the men and the friend’s repeated attempts to reach Reagan again were unsuccessful.

“The friend was also transported to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.”

U.S. Coast Guard sector Southeast New England, Coast Guard Station Menemsha and the Dukes County Sheriff’s Department also responded to the incident, deploying a full search and rescue for Mr. Reagan.

Southeast sector chief Seth Caron said a helicopter deployed from station Woods Hole located the swimmer approximately three to four minutes after arriving in the area.

A Coast Guard rescue swimmer was deployed and brought the man to shore, Chief Caron said.

Chief Caron and West Tisbury police officer Matt Gebo confirmed Monday that CPR was performed on Mr. Reagan. He was transported to the Vineyard hospital via helicopter, which departed from the beach.

Fatal drownings are rare on the Island. Although the incident marks the only ocean drowning in 2021, two swimmers were rescued from heavy surf at South Beach in Edgartown and Lucy Vincent Beach in Chilmark earlier this summer. In both instances, lifeguards and emergency service personnel pulled people from the water, performing CPR or other resuscitative procedures.

Here is some useful information about rip currents and what to do if you are caught in one.