EDEN, N.C. (AP) — Searchers combed a North Carolina
river on Friday for two missing tubers after a family on a recreational float went over a dam
, killing three people
and rescuing four others.
The group of nine people, all believed to be members of the same family, were floating down the Dan River on inflatable tubes when they went over a dam about 8 feet (2.5 meters) high next to a Duke Energy
plant Wednesday night, according to Rockingham County Emergency Services Director Rodney Cates.
On Thursday afternoon, a Duke Energy employee who saw some of the tubers called 911, and four tubers were rescued that day, as well as the bodies of three tubers.
Cates stated that the rescued tubers spent the night floating in the water
near the dam before being discovered clinging to the tubes; he stated that they managed to stay afloat for approximately 19 hours, describing them as "very, very fatigued" when they were discovered. The four were taken to a hospital
and were expected to survive.
Cates said the search for the two remaining missing tubers was suspended late Friday afternoon and would resume Saturday, but he was still hopeful they would be found alive. Earlier in the day, rescue personnel were seen hauling rafts toward the water Friday at a staging area in Eden, north of Greensboro near the Virginia
“We’re still optimistic and positive,” Cates told reporters.
Reuben Villano, 35, and his children
Eric, 14, and Irene, 18, all of Eden, were among those rescued, as was Karlos Villano of LaPorte, Indiana
, according to a news
release from the sheriff's office.
Bridish Crawford, 27, and Antonio Ramon, 30, of Eden, as well as Sophie Wilson, 14, of LaPorte, Indiana, were identified as the victims by the sheriff's office.
Teresa Villano, 35, and Isiah Crawford, 7, both of Eden, are still unaccounted for, according to the sheriff's office.
According to scanner traffic recordings on broadcastify.com, first responders indicated that the survivors were discovered in fast-moving water near the dam.
Shortly after the 911 call was received at 3:15 p.m. Thursday, first responders could be heard over public safety radio ordering boats and other swift water rescue equipment to the area.
“We’re taking a call on the Dan River at the dam near the Duke Energy plant, and the caller says five tubers... went over the dam,” someone says.
According to a rescuer on the video, some of the tubers became stuck near the dam due to the pull of the water flowing over it.
“They’re on that side... at the dam abutment, and they’re all caught in the pull. If you can come over... we can probably pull them out pretty good, hopefully,” the rescuer is heard saying.
Cates told reporters Friday that debris and rocks in the river can puncture tubes or rafts, so it's critical for people to wear life preservers, though he didn't say whether any of the nine were wearing them.
“The current of the river makes it very difficult to navigate, even for the most experienced swimmers,” he said. “We strongly encourage people to wear some type of personal floatation device in addition to the tube they are in.”
He said it's not uncommon for people in the area to float the river on tubes or rafts, but most get out and walk around the dam, which is marked by a sign.
The employee who called 911 to report the tubers, according to Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks, was unavailable for an interview
This article was contributed to by Associated Press
writers Jonathan Drew in Durham and Tom Foreman Jr.