WNC Rescuers Urge Extreme Caution Around Waterfalls - WSPA.com

WNC Rescuers Urge Extreme Caution Around Waterfalls

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Heavy rains have increased water levels at many waterfalls across Western North Carolina. Heavy rains have increased water levels at many waterfalls across Western North Carolina.
HENDERSON COUNTY, N.C. -

Waterfalls: family attraction or accident waiting to happen? The answer really depends on you.

In the past five months, there have been five waterfall accidents throughout Western North Carolina, according to Bob Twomey, chief deputy of Transylvania County Rescue Squad.

The most recent incident happened Saturday at Catawba Falls in McDowell County. Officials say a man climbing up some rocks fell 30 feet.

"It appears to be the start of a very active year with waterfall injuries and deaths," Twomey said.

Twomey is a survival expert and is responsible for training members of the Transylvania County Rescue Squad.

He is concerned that people are not being careful when they step out into the wild.

"At the top edge of a waterfall, one mistake there is usually the last," Twomey said.

Twomey says he regularly sees people hiking, swimming and taking pictures too close to the falls.

He doesn't exactly understand their reasoning either. For example, DuPont State Forest has signs posted asking people to stay back...

He estimates since 2001 there has been nearly 40 incidents resulting in serious injury or death at different waterfalls across the region.

"The national parks, national forest, state parks and state forests -- they do as much as they can within reason to warn people of the hazards they are about to encounter."

Twomey says it's up to the public to know right from wrong.

He recommends if you're planning on visiting one of these natural wonders to keep back at least 10- 20 feet from the water's edge. And remember that rocks may not look slippery, but they most likely are.

He adds a person weighs less in the water; so it's easy for the current to sweep you off your feet.

If that happens, don't try to stand up. Twomey says your feet can become lodge in between the rocks and the force of the swift-moving water can knock you face down causing you to drown.

Instead of trying to get up, Twomey says put your arms out and float on your back. Keep your legs close to your chest and use your feet to shield you from rocks as you move down the river.

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