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Body of fourth tuber found in Dan River identified as 7-year-old boy

35-year-old Teresa Villano remains missing

Search continues for 2 missing tubers, 3 others dead after float on Dan River
Search continues for 2 missing tubers, 3 others dead after float on Dan River

EDEN, N.C.UPDATE (6/20/2021)

The body that was recovered from the Dan River Sunday morning has been identified, according to the Rockingham County Department of Emergency Services.

This comes after a fatal tubing incident on Wednesday on the Dan River involving nine tubers. The incident prompted a 30-hour search as two people, 35-year-old Teresa Villano, of Eden, N.C., and 7-year-old Isiah Crawford, of Eden, N.C., were still missing at the time.

On Sunday at about 10 a.m., police received a call from someone who believed they saw a body in a river near the Draper Landing. When crews arrived at the scene they confirmed that a body was in the water. They later identified the body as 7-year-old Isiah.

Authorities report that efforts are still underway and said crews are currently searching the river from the dam back to the Draper Landing for the final victim.


UPDATE

Saturday night Rockingham County, NC officials announced they are suspending all search, rescue and recovery efforts regarding two people who remain missing after a tubing incident on the Dan River on Wednesday.

In a press release, Rodney Cates, Emergency Services Director for Rockingham County, said, “We have remained optimistic that we could rescue the two victims, but as we conclude over thirty hours of searching which has involved multiple aircraft as well as many swift water rescue teams from multiple jurisdictions this operation has transitioned to a recovery effort.”

35-year-old Teresa Villano, of Eden, N.C., and 7-year-old Isiah Crawford, of Eden, N.C., remain missing.

Cates said their thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families of Wednesday’s incident.

He went on to thank all of the agencies involved with the search efforts, as well as the community for their support.

Crews from Danville and Pittsylvania County were involved in the search through mutual aid.


Authorities gave an update on the search at 5 p.m. on Friday.

Rockingham County, NC Emergency Services Director Rodney Cates and Sheriff Sam Page
Rockingham County, NC Emergency Services Director Rodney Cates and Sheriff Sam Page

Searchers combed a North Carolina river Friday for two missing tubers after a family on a recreational float went over a dam, resulting in three deaths and the rescue of four people from the water.

The group of nine people, who were all believed to be part of the same family, was floating 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 on Wednesday night, Rockingham County Emergency Services Director Rodney Cates told reporters.

Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page said Friday that the people rescued included 35-year-old, Rueben Villano, of Eden, N.C., his 14-year-old son, Eric Villano, his 18-year-old daughter, Irene Villano and a visiting relative, 14-year-old Karlos Villano, of LaPorte, Indiana. A 27-year-old Bridish Crawford, of Eden, N.C., a 30-year-old Antonio Ramon, of Eden, N.C. and a 14-year-old Sophie Wilson, of LaPorte, Indiana, were the ones found dead, he said.

35-year-old Teresa Villano, of Eden, N.C., and 7-year-old Isiah Crawford, of Eden, N.C., remain missing.

A Duke Energy employee who saw some of the tubers called the situation into 911 Thursday afternoon, and four were rescued that day. Three tubers’ bodies were also found Thursday.

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 clung to tubes and 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 being suspended late Friday afternoon and would resume Saturday. He said he was still optimistic the two missing tubers could 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 state line.

“We’re still positive and optimistic, but we’ll see how things go tomorrow,” Cates told reporters.

Cates said it’s not clear why the tubers didn’t contact authorities sooner, but he said it may have been because they didn’t have phones with them. 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.

First responders could be heard over public safety radio ordering boats and other swift water rescue equipment to the area shortly after the 911 call came in Thursday around 3:15 p.m.

“We’re taking a call on the Dan River at the dam near the Duke Energy plant. Caller is advising five tubers . went over the dam,” one person says.

A rescuer says on the recording that some of the tubers were stuck near the dam because of the pull of water flowing over it.

“They’re on that side. at the abutment for the dam. And they’re all caught in the pull. If you can come over. we can probably pull them out pretty good, hopefully,” the rescuer can be heard saying.

Cates told reporters Friday that debris and rocks in the river can puncture tubes or rafts, so it’s important for people to wear life preservers. He said it wasn’t clear if any of the nine were using life preservers.

“The current of the river makes it very hard to navigate, even for the most experienced swimmers. So we strongly encourage people to wear some type of personal floatation device in addition to the tube they’re in,” he said.

He said it’s not unusual for people to float the river on tubes or rafts in the area, but most get out and walk around the dam, which is marked by a sign.

Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks said the employee who called 911 to report the tubers wasn’t available for an interview.


ORIGINAL STORY

A North Carolina water rescue is underway for multiple tubers who disappeared along the Dan River in Rockingham County, North Carolina Wednesday night.

According to the Rockingham County Emergency Services Director, Rodney Cates, a group of nine people on three rafts went over the Duke Energy Dam in Eden at about 7 p.m. on Wednesday. However, authorities weren’t notified until 3:15 p.m. on Thursday when a Duke Power employee saw something that alerted him and called 911.

So far, authorities said three people are dead, two others remain missing and four additional tubers have been found alive.

Cates said the four people found alive were taken to the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.

Both Pittsylvania County and Danville authorities are involved in the search through mutual aid, and Cates said they are searching from the Virginia state line down.

At this point, the search has not crossed state lines and all recoveries have been made in North Carolina, but the dam is about 8 miles downstream from the Virginia state line.

Due to nightfall, the search has been suspended for the night and will resume tomorrow.


About the Authors:

Shayne Dwyer is an award-winning journalist and a member of the 10 News team since May 2018.

Lindsey joined the WSLS 10 team as a reporter in February 2019 and is thrilled to call Roanoke her new home!