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North Johnston mourns drowning victim

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KENLY — The North Johnston High School community is mourning the loss of Austin “Catfish” Potter, who drowned May 14 in Atlantic Beach while trying to rescue his girlfriend’s 5-year-old son.

Potter, 24, who was living in Havelock and previously lived in Kenly, is a 2013 North Johnston High graduate.

Chris Batten, who coached Potter in basketball for three years at North Johnston, said Potter was “a good kid.”

“Chris was laid back and a regular, down-to-earth guy,” said Batten. “He got along with everybody and did not have any enemies. He just enjoyed being with the guys and being a part of the team.”

Batten said Potter had been known as “Catfish” for as long as he could remember.

Investigators said Potter died when he got caught in a rip current trying to rescue the boy, according to the Associated Press.

Rescuers found Potter floating face-down and brought him and the 5-year-old to a local hospital where both victims were pronounced dead, the AP reported.

Tim Harrell, who was principal at North Johnston when Potter was a student there, said he felt “very sad” to hear news of Potter’s death.

“He was a great young man and always did what he was expected to do,” said Harrell. “He was a friend of everyone and always had a smile on his face.”

“The North Johnston community has always been very close,” Harrell added, and this hurts us all.”