JACKSON COUNTY, N.C. (WSPA) – Officials warn people against swimming near the waterfalls at Whitewater Falls Park after a child died falling into the water.
Multiple law enforcement agencies were called to the falls Sunday. According to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, three-year-old Nevaeh Jade Newswanger was visiting the falls with their family from Denver, P.A. Deputies said the child was in the water when the current carried them over the edge of the falls.
”It only takes one slip, trip and fall for the current to carry you over the falls,” said Public Affairs Officer for the National Forests in North Carolina Cathy Dowd. “There are rocks below the falls.”
Rescue teams searched for Newswanger for hours. Her body was found around 1 a.m. Monday.
“It looks like it’s safe so many people aren’t aware of the danger of being in the stream above the falls,” explained Dowd. “The other danger is being in the streams below the falls.”
Dowd said it is safest to view waterfalls from a distance and urged visitors not to get too close.
“Sometimes, the current can catch you and carry you under, and you don’t even realize that that’s a possibility. And, there are rocks and sticks that you can bang your head on.”
Firefighters told 7NEWS they get called to more rescues at lakes, ponds and waterfalls as the weather warms. They said it is important for people to be prepared before they go into the water.
“Make sure you bring all the safety equipment – a personal floatation device and ‘swimmies’ for the kids,” explained Chesnee Fire Department Firefighter and Paramedic Paul Bradley. “Go in pairs. Make sure you have somebody with you. You don’t want to go unattended. Someone needs to know where you’re at.”
Bradley said the water can be dangerous even for the strongest swimmers because tides and currents can change so quickly.
“Once that water starts picking up and the flow becomes a little more rapid, the harder you swim, the faster you’re going to tire out,” explained Bradley.
“Your safety is your own responsibility,” added Dowd.