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August 5, 2021

Search continues after 3 tubers die, 2 disappear at dam

EDEN (AP) — Rescue teams continued to scour a North Carolina river on Saturday for two missing tubers following a deadly accident in which a family on a recreational float went over a dam.

The Greensboro News & Record reported Saturday that search teams still hadn’t found a 7-year-old boy and a 35-year-old woman.

The two were part of a group of nine that floated down the Dan River on inflatable tubes and went over a dam that’s about 8 feet (2.5 meters) high next to a Duke Energy plant Wednesday night. Four people were rescued Thursday, while three tubers’ bodies were found.

By 3 p.m. Saturday, roughly 68 hours had passed since the accident.

Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page identified those rescued as Reuben Villano, 35; and children Eric, 14, and Irene, 18, all of Eden. Also rescued were Karlos Villano of LaPorte, Indiana. A news release from the sheriff’s office didn’t indicate how Karlos Villano was related to the others, except to say he was a visiting relative.

The sheriff’s office identified the victims as Bridish Crawford, 27, and Antonio Ramon, 30, of Eden; and Sophie Wilson, 14, also of LaPorte, Indiana.

Still missing are Teresa Villano, 35, and Isiah Crawford, 7, both from Eden, the sheriff’s office said.

Boating experts say that such low-head dams are notorious for trapping people in the powerful current that churns at their base.

Dan Riverkeeper Steven Pulliam of Stoneville told the newspaper that he wonders if recent rains created mud that obscured a portage area where boaters and tubers can exit and walk around the dam’s powerful currents.

“It’s possible that recent rains covered some of the steps with mud, making it hard to see, especially if you’re not looking for it,” he said.

Jeff Brooks, Duke Energy spokesman, said “there is a sign that is visible as you approach the dam that also mentions the availability of a portage.’’

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