Search for survivors after three killed in tubing tragedy

·3-min read

Three people are dead and two people, including a seven-year-old, are still missing after going "tubing" on a river.

The Rockingham County Sheriff's Office is still searching for seven-year-old Isiah Crawford and 35-year-old Teresa Villano, both from the US state of North Carolina, after going missing on the Dan River, in Eden, North Carolina on Wednesday.

"On Wednesday June 16, 2021, a group of nine individuals set out to float down the Dan River in Eden on several inflatable tubes, a popular pastime in Rockingham County," Rockingham County Sheriff's Office said in a statement. 

"Around nightfall, the nine individuals, whose tubes were all connected together, went over a dam located on the Dan River near the Duke Energy Power Plant in Eden."

Teresa Villano, 35, and Isiah Crawford, 7, are still missing. Source: Rockingham County Sheriff's Office
Teresa Villano, 35, and Isiah Crawford, 7, are still missing. Source: Rockingham County Sheriff's Office

The sheriff's office said there were warning signs on the river near the dam.

Isiah and Ms Villano were part of a group of nine who were tubing on the river — three people have been confirmed dead, four have been rescued.

Isiah's mother, Bridish Crawford, is one of the three people who have been confirmed dead, WFMY reported.

Antonio Ramon, 30, and Sophie Wilson, 14, are the others who have been confirmed dead.

Karlos Villano, 14, was rescued along with Rueben Villano, 35, and his children Eric, 14, and Irene, 18.

Rueben is Teresa's twin brother and she is also Sophie Wilson's aunt.

The search for Teresa and Isiah continued on Friday (local time).

"Rockingham County and Virginia search and rescue teams have both searched their respective areas of Dan River for the two tubers that remain missing," Rockingham County Sheriff's Office (N.C.) said on Twitter.

"So far they have not been located. Search efforts continuing at this time."

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While the group set out on the river on Wednesday, authorities were not alerted to the situation until Thursday.

The sheriff's office said an employee at the Duke Energy Plant saw something which made him think there were people in "peril".

First responders found the four surviving individuals clinging to the dam and were transported to hospital for treatment.

First responders indicated the survivors were caught in fast-moving water near the dam when they were found, according to recordings of scanner traffic on broadcastify.com.

The search for two missing tubers continues after three others were found dead and four more were pulled from the water after the group went over a 2.5 metre high dam. Source:  AP
The search for two missing tubers continues after three others were found dead and four more were pulled from the water. Source: AP

Rockingham County Emergency Services Director Rodney Cates said people on the river usually get out before the dam which is about about 2.5-meters high, WFMY reported.

Cates said that the rescued tubers spent the night floating in the water near the dam before they were found clinging to the tubes. 

He said they managed to stay afloat for approximately 19 hours, describing them as “very, very fatigued” when they were found. The four were taken to a hospital and were expected to survive.

Cates said the search for the two still missing was suspended late Friday afternoon and would resume Saturday. He said he was still optimistic the two missing tubers could be found alive.

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