Jessica Embry, a fine arts teacher and orchestra director at Eugene Ashley High School, became distressed while assisting with rescue efforts
Jessica Embry
Credit: Facebook

A North Carolina woman died Sunday evening while trying to save two children who were caught in a rip current.

Emergency personnel responded to the scene on Kure Beach around 5:45 p.m. after multiple reports of swimmers in distress, the Kure Beach Police Department said in a statement to PEOPLE.

"In an attempt to rescue the children, several bystanders and members of the Kure Beach Fire Department, entered the water and successfully brought the children to shore," police said in their statement.

Jessica Embry, a fine arts teacher and orchestra director at Ashley High School, became distressed while assisting with rescue efforts.

Emergency crews brought her to shore and attempted to save her, but she was pronounced dead at the scene.

"The Kure Beach Police Department commends the heroic efforts and sacrifice made by Jessica Embry, bystanders, and rescuers. Jessica Embry, along with all involved, are credited with saving the lives of the children," their statement concluded.

Ashley High principal Patrick McCarty called Embry a "profound" teacher who will be "greatly missed" a statement to PEOPLE

"I struggle to speak about this incident to others because of the type of person Jessica Embry was personally and professionally. Ms. Embry worked at our school for nearly nine years as an Orchestra Teacher. Ms. Embry was also a deeply committed advocate for Ashley High School. In addition to her passion in the classroom, she loved the arts and played a significant part in our community," McCarty said.

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"Ms. Embry's impact was profound and she will be greatly missed by all," McCarty added.

Embry started a group at Ashley High School called "United Sound," which paired disabled students with students in her orchestra class to help them learn how to play music, the New Hanover County school district told PEOPLE.

The group even played the national anthem during Brunswick County's last Special Olympics event, the district said.

"Jessica Embry was a sister, a daughter, a missionary, incredible orchestra teacher, and a mentor both in our Wilmington Community and in the NHCS Arts family to her colleagues and her students," Jacki Booth, the district's lead arts director, said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. "She approached every day as a challenge to be a better person and to help more people in the process."