North Carolina tubing tragedy: Who are the victims? 3 of family dead, 2 missing

A family of nine went tubing on the Dan River but their joyride ended in tragedy after they plunged over the Duke Energy dam. Only 4 were rescued


                            North Carolina tubing tragedy: Who are the victims? 3 of family dead, 2 missing
Eden Rescue squad and county officials respond to the tubing accident at Duke Energy dam on June 17, 2021. (Twitter)
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A fun-filled day of tubing turned to into a tragedy for a North Carolina family on Wednesday, June 16. Nine individuals, including several children, reportedly plunged into the Duke Energy dam, located in Eden, leading to three deaths and two people still missing. So far, rescuers have managed to rescue the father, his two children and his nephew. Two others are still missing, almost 26 hours after rescuers first stepped in.     

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A day after the family plunged into the dam, stunt performer Alex Harvill passed away in Washington. Harvill was warming up for a record-breaking 351 feet jump when his bike crashed into the ramp just short of his 150 feet warmup run. On June 14, 'Gone Girl' actress Lisa Banes died after being hit by an e-scooter a week ago in New York City. This year has also seen tragedies affecting families, a recent example was the Texas power outage where Cristian Pavon, a Texas boy, 11, died in his mobile home. He allegedly froze to death after the family’s mobile house lost power during an intensely cold day in Texas

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Little is known about what exactly happened to the family at the dam, but according to reports the survivors spent 19 hours in the water after falling from the Dan river. Unable to call for help, they were left stranded till a Duke Energy worker spotted them in the water and dialed 911. 

7-year-old boy Isiah still missing after tubing tragedy on River Dan in North Carolina ( Rockingham County Sheriff's Office)

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Who are the victims?

According to Rockingham County officials, Ruben Villano, Eric Villano, Irene Villano, and Karlos Villano were rescued by authorities. It is believed, Ruben is the father of the family. The 35-year-old lives in Eden. His son Eric is 14, and his daughter Irene is 18. Karlos is Ruben's nephew and was visiting from La Porte, Indiana. 

Three people have been confirmed dead in the accident - Bridish Crawford, 27, Antonio Ramon, 30, and Sophie Wilson, 14. Authorities have still not been able to locate Bridish's seven-year-old son Isiah and Reuben's sister Teresa Villano, 30. Sophie was also from La Porte. Bridish is reportedly the mother of "some" of Ruben's children, but further details were not available. 

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According to one local TV station, Karlos has been released from the hospital and is "doing alright". The status of Ruben, Eric, and Irene is not available but reportedly they are being treated for non-life-threatening injuries and will survive. A family friend of Sophie's has organized a GoFundMe to pay for her funeral costs, which is estimated to be around $10,000, $1,735 has been raised of now.

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A stretch of the Dan river where tubing is usually done. (Twitter)

 

What happened?

According to media reports, the group of nine was split among three rafts. While tubing, they all went over the dam on June 16 and were unable to call for help since they didn't have their cellphones. Ruben, Eric, Irene, and Karlos survived by hanging on dam structures. They were then spotted by a worker on June 17, leading to a rescue operation by the Rockingham County Emergency Services. 

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So far, services have conducted both air and water searches for Isaiah and Teresa, but have been unable to locate them. "We're going to stay positive that we can do a rescue rather than a recovery," Emergency Services Director Rodney Cates said. They have now broadened their search radius right up to the border of Virginia. Other departments, including the Pittsylvania and Danville County officials, and State Highway Patrol have been roped in to help with the search. The group got into trouble when their three round inflatable rafts, which had been lashed together, came untied. Each person was floating on their own tube when they went over the dam.  Cates said there are signs on the river that warn about the dam downstream. 

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Teresa Villano, 30, among missing after tubing tragedy on River Dan in North Carolina (Rockingham County Sheriff's Office)

According to reports, visitors are discouraged from tubing near the dam due to its "pretty steep drop". It is unclear why the family did not get out of their tubes before reaching the dam. Usually, people who go tubing on the Dan River get off before the dam and walk around it. 

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Sophie's mother Megan Heitz lamented her teen daughter's death in a Facebook post: "Words can't explain what we feel right now, she was my best friend, a sweetheart and had so much life to live she was the most amazing daughter in so many ways, my life will never ever be the same a piece of me died." The mother of the 14-year-old Karlos, who survived, told WGHP he was tired after being pulled from the water more than 20 hours into the harrowing ordeal. The woman said her son was physically fine but mentally distraught. He was released from the hospital on June 17 night

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The investigation runs from Rockingham County all the way to the Virginia borderline. "We have done both an air and water search at this time. We've had an aircraft that has flown the river. They flew 6 miles into Virginia, they came back widened their perimeter and flew the ground area adjacent to the river," Cates said.

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