Fresh rescue crews were expected to join the search for a 7-year-old boy and 30-year-old woman who went over a dam while tubing on the Dan River.
The tragic incident took three of their family members’ lives, including the boy’s mother, while four other relatives were rescued after floundering in the water for 19 hours.
“We’re still optimistic,” the two will be found alive, Rodney Cates, Rockingham County’s director of Emergency Services, told Rockingham Now Friday evening, adding that the search was still considered a rescue, not a recovery, effort.
“(We) want somebody to look at the water, the debris in the water from a new standpoint,” Cates said during a news conference. “Perhaps a new set of eyes could shed light on something, so that’s why we’re remaining optimistic at this time. At this point we’re still optimistic we’ll do a rescue.”
Teresa Villano of Eden, N.C., and 7-year-old Isiah Crawford, who was among extended family visiting from La Porte, Ind., are still missing after the family tubing party on the river near the Virginia border took a catastrophic turn. The group’s tubes were reportedly tied together, but somehow came apart during the float down the river, and went over the 8-foot dam into the churning water below.
Isiah’s mother, Bridish Crawford, was among the three family members who died in the accident, which took place Wednesday evening. Four survivors were left clinging to their tubes for 19 hours before a Duke Energy worker spotted them trapped in the current at the base of the dam and called 911.
The four were rescued Thursday and treated for minor injuries. None of the survivors had life jackets on, Cates said. Nor did they seem to have cell phones with them to call for rescue themselves.
A family friend has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to bring the body of the youngest confirmed victim, 14-year-old Sophie Wilson, back to Indiana.
The water below the 8-foot-tall dam, where the current is strongest, is about 3 feet deep, said Jeff Brooks, a spokesman for Duke Energy.
There is a portage area where tubers could exit to walk around the dam, but Riverkeeper Steven Pullian said recent rains might have made it hard to see. They may also have missed a sign near the dam.