N.C. teen who went missing while swimming in river found dead below dam

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GASTON COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) – A 14-year-old who went missing while swimming in the South Fork Catawba River Monday night was found dead on Friday.

Ethan Danny Britt and a friend, David Winder, went swimming in the South Fork Catawba River around 6:30 p.m. Monday in area off Stanly Spencer-Mountain Road in Lowell. Both teens were swept away in the current, officials said, and were taken over the dam.

On Friday, officials said a body presumed to be Ethan was found near where he was last seen.

“It is with great sadness that we report that around noon today, a body presumed to be that of Ethan Britt, pending official identification, was located just below the Spencer Mountain Dam, which is just below and downstream from where Ethan was last seen,” officials said during a press conference Friday. “Please continue to pray for Ethan and his family, and our responders, during this difficult time.”

(WBTV)

Winder was rescued after he became stranded on an island Tuesday morning. Rescue crews said Winder was conscious and talking when he was transported.

Just after 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, officials released a photo of Britt, and Britt’s father provided a picture to WBTV Tuesday evening.

Winder was rescued after he became stranded on an island Tuesday morning. Rescue crews said Winder was conscious and talking when he was transported.

Just after 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, officials released a photo of Britt, and Britt’s father provided a picture to WBTV Tuesday evening.

Residents along the water were being asked to be on the lookout for any signs of him. Britt’s father asked the community to pray for his son. During an interview with WBTV, he said he believed his son was still alive.

On Tuesday morning, a passerby called 911 after seeing one person in the water. Rescue crews say they had to use a swift water boat to rescue Winder, which was difficult because of moving currents and debris.

(WBTV)

In the 911 call released Wednesday, the caller told police that they saw a person, presumably Winder, stranded in the water on the South Fork River, yelling for help.

“He’s standing up. He’s OK, he’s just panicked, has no clothes on and wanting help. He’s stranded, he surely can’t get in the water,” the caller said.

During a press conference on Tuesday, officials said the teen who was rescued was able to grab onto trees growing on an island that was underwater due to the flooding.

“They were caught in this water, just before it peaked at close to 15 feet. So it was at its highest point when they were out there in it,” officials said. “A lot of people go white water canoing, kayaking on it, when it’s at a normal level. Right now however, it is extremely dangerous.”

Residents say recent flooding in the area has caused water levels to rise extremely high.

“This is the highest I’ve ever seen it, this time of year,” 69-year Cramerton resident Herman Beaty says.

The sight includes things like shut-down piers and sunken picnic tables.

Crews changed tactics with search efforts Thursday, planning to focus on particular locations rather than covering “everything” again, officials said.

“This phase of the operation will again utilize swift water teams that will search by raft and on foot as the water levels have receded to just above 4 feet, which preclude the use of motorized boats in many areas of the river, a search by air with drones, and a use of sonar equipment in the area where Ethan was last seen in the water. This significant drop in water level, currently at 4.3 feet, currently has provided us an improved window of opportunity to search for Ethan,” an update from the Gaston County Office of Emergency Management read.

Copyright 2019 WBTV. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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