3 dead after inner-tubers go over river dam in North Carolina

Three inner tubes are shown at the site of the Duke Energy dam in Eden, N.C., on June 17, 2021. Via ABC 11

A lazy journey down a river turned into a terrifying plunge over a dam in North Carolina on Wednesday night, in an inner-tube accident that left at least three people dead.

Nine individuals were riding their inner tubes down the Dan River when they were swept over the dam in the disastrous incident, according to Rodney Cates, director of Rockingham County Emergency Services. They fell about 2.4 metres (eight feet) over the edge of a dam owned by Duke Energy in Eden, N.C., he said.

Authorities did not learn about the incident until the following day, when an employee at the dam saw people on the water around 3:15 p.m. The employee called 911 and officials showed up to rescue the injured tubers.

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Three bodies were found below the dam, four survivors were taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries and two people were still missing as of Thursday night, Cates said.

“We’re going to stay positive that we can do a rescue rather than a recovery,” he told NBC News.

The search resumed with boats and helicopters on Friday morning. Crews ranged several kilometres over the state border into Virginia for their search, but no people or bodies were initially found in the morning.

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Tubing is a popular activity in the area but authorities discourage people from doing it near the dam, officials told ABC News.

Cates said the accident shows why it’s important to be alert at all times on the water.

“Know where you are, know your surroundings, have your safety vest, your life vest,” he said. “The inner tube may not always stay inflated and if the inner tube is not inflated you need some type of flotation device to secure you as you are coming on down the river.”

As of this writing, the search is ongoing.


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