Family float trip ends in tragedy after group went over North Carolina dam

Searchers on Friday spent a second day scouring a North Carolina river for a 30-year-old woman and a 7-year-old boy missing since they went over a dam during a family float trip.

Three people, including a 14-year-old, were found dead Thursday after nine relatives on inflatable tubes in the Dan River went over the dam around nightfall Wednesday, the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office said.

Four people were rescued, and two others, Teresa Villino, 30, and Isiah Crawford, 7, remained missing, the office said.

“This is a very tragic situation,” Sheriff Sam Page said at a news conference Friday, adding that the search will continue.

“We want to find these people and make sure they’re OK,” he said.

All nine people in the group were floating on tubes that were tied together when they went over the around 8-foot-tall dam near a power plant on the Dan River in the northern part of the state, officials said.

The dam is around 8 1/2 feet tall with no water, officials said said. At the bottom of the dam, there’s around 2 to 3 feet of water “just churning in a hydraulic manner,” Rockingham County Emergency Services Director Rodney Cates said.

It wasn’t until around 3:30 p.m. the next day when a Duke Energy employee thought there were people in trouble on the river and called 911, the sheriff’s office said. Responding rescuers saved four, including three teens, who told authorities there were others from their group who were missing.

The four pulled from the water were clinging to several tubes and were “very tired, very fatigued,” Cates said.

“They had been subject to the elements for 19 hours,” he said.

A 35-year-old man, an 18-year-old and two 14-year-olds were rescued. They were taken to a hospital with injuries that were not life threatening, authorities said.

The three people found dead Thursday have been identified by the sheriff’s office as Bridish Crawford, 27; Antonio Ramon, 30; and Sophie Wilson, 14.

Some of the family lives in the Eden area, and Page said he is not sure how familiar they were with the river. Investigators will follow up to find out how they came to be so close to the dam, which has warning signs, officials said.

The search will continue Saturday and include fresh crews from other counties.

“Perhaps a new set of eyes could shed a new light on something that’s out there, so that’s why we’re remaining optimistic,” Cates said.

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