AVERY COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - The search for a 26-year-old man who fell into Elk River Falls Sunday has been temporarily suspended due to weather.
Officials say 26-year-old Thomas Edward McCardle Jr. of Martins Ferry was attending a wedding in Asheville and went by Elk River Falls, slipped on a rock and fell into the rough waters.
Deputies believe McCardle was pulled under by strong currents that were a result of recent heavy rain in the area.
Several Appalachian State University students jumped in the water in an attempt to rescue McCardle but were unsuccessful. One of the students was nearly taken under by a current while trying to hold onto McCardle, deputies say. The student's friends formed a human chain to get to her.
McCardle surfaced one more time in the middle of the basin below the falls and then was pulled under.
Officials said he was not wearing a life vest.
McCardle's parents, Thomas and Barbara McCardle, thanked rescuers for their efforts. "They have assured us they will not quit until our son is recovered no matter how long it takes for the water to recede enough to resume operations. We also want to personally thank that group of young people who risked their lives to try to save our son," Thomas and Barbara McCardle said.
With recent rainfall swelling all creeks and streams across the mountains and foothills, authorities are urging people to use extreme caution near waterways.
"Wear a vest and don't swim alone," said Buchanan.
Better yet, don't go into the water at all, he said. As for the search for the Ohio man, crews will stay on the scene working until they find him, he said.
"We do not think the general public understands how dangerous this particular piece of water is, especially after heavy rains," said Thomas McCardle.
The McCardles, along with others who have lost a family member at the Elk River Falls, want action taken to reduce the danger and fatalities that happen in the area.
Avery County Sheriff along with others, made a video with the US Forest Service to warn people of the dangers.
Crews plan to resume search efforts when weather permits and water levels drop.