At Least 3 Dead After Floating Over a North Carolina Dam

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U.S.|At Least 3 Dead After Floating Over a North Carolina Dam

Officials are still searching for two from a group of nine who trekked out to the Dan River around nightfall on Wednesday, the authorities said.

Emergency personnel near the scene where a group using a recreation inner tube on the Dan River went over a dam near Eden, N.C.
Credit...WSET-TV, via Associated Press

June 18, 2021

Three people were found dead in a North Carolina river on Thursday after floating over a dam and drowning, according to the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office. Two members of the group remain missing.

They were among nine local residents who trekked out to the Dan River around sunset on Wednesday, the authorities said.

On Thursday, an employee at Duke Energy called 911 and said that four people were holding on to a single recreational inner tube in the river and appeared to need help, according to Sam Page, the sheriff of Rockingham County.

“They were all holding on for dear life,” Sheriff Page said.

The four people were rescued and taken to a hospital, he said. Their injuries were not life-threatening, according to Rodney Cates, the Rockingham County emergency services director.

Mr. Cates did not specify any of the group’s exact ages, but he said they were “young men and women.”

Mr. Cates said he believed no one in the group had a cellphone as they floated in the river from 7:30 p.m. Wednesday to 3 p.m. Thursday.

A helicopter rescue crew found the three bodies in the river, Sheriff Page said, adding that search efforts were continuing for the two people who were still missing. By Friday morning, the search had extended to Danville, Va., about 25 miles northeast of where the survivors were recovered.

The authorities declined to share the names of the three people who were killed. Sheriff Page said his office was still investigating why the group went out to the river so late.

“I’ve worked here as sheriff for 23 years, but this is probably the most significant number of victims,” he said. “I don’t recall seeing that high of a number associated with potential drownings.”

It was not immediately clear how many or what kind of flotation devices the group took out on the river, although the Sheriff’s Office referred to the group as “tubers” in a tweet on Friday.

There are signs on the river that warn people of the approaching dam, according to the sheriff. The dam is eight feet high, Mr. Cates said, adding that the river’s current wasn’t strong on Wednesday and Thursday.

Mr. Cates said the multistate search effort would continue into weekend.

“We’re certainly not giving up at all,” he said. “And we’ll continue our efforts as diligently as we can until we decide we need to do otherwise.”

Mr. Cates said that this year, his crew has searched for missing people in other parts of the river. Thursday marked the first time a group of people died while floating over the dam, he added.

“This time of year, a lot of people are on the water,” Sheriff Page said. “You just have to be careful.”

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