Second man drowns at Elk River Falls this year

Man gets pulled under by current, drowns at Elk River Falls

AVERY COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - A man drowned at Elk River Falls in Avery County over the weekend, marking the second drowning in the river in a matter of weeks.

According to Avery County emergency officials, a 32-year-old Nagarjuna Gogineni was swimming with friends at Elk River Falls on Sunday when he jumped into the pool of water below the falls near a ledge. That's when he was pulled into the middle of the body of water by a current.

Gogineni was then pulled under the water and was caught up in debris below the surface.

He was was not wearing a life vest at the time of the incident, officials say.

In total, 16 people have drowned at Elk River Falls over a span of a few years.

In May, a body matching the description of 26-year-old Thomas McCardle Jr. had surfaced at Elk River Falls.

According to law enforcement officials, McCardle 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.

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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.

Deputies believe McCardle was pulled under by strong currents that were a result of recent heavy rain in the area.

A Facebook post from the Avery County Sheriff's Office expressed sympathy for the family of the young man.

Our prayers go out to this young man's family and friends. However, even during this terribly sad time, we all have got to know about the life story of a tremendous young man, his victory to walk after an accident which doctors said would never happen, his tremendous faith in God and his wonderful father and mother and for that, we have all been greatly blessed.

McCardle's parents, Thomas and Barbara McCardle, thanked rescuers for their efforts.

"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.

Sheriff Kevin Frye is urges people to be careful in all waterways as they try to cool off during the week of the fourth. Anywhere there is deep water he says no one should be in the water alone and everyone should "wear life vests."

The pool below the Elk River Falls is especially dangerous, he said, and he wishes people would just enjoy the view and stay out of the water there. Sixteen people have drowned there since 2002.

One major issue, besides the current, is a debris field that sits below the surface of the water.

"There are ropes, fishing lines, trees and shrubs and more down there," he said. "The current can pull you down and you can get entangled in that."

The site is part of US Forest Service land and Frye says he has discussed safety options with those officials.

"I would really like to see a ranger there all day on most days," he added.

He says Forest Service officials told him there were not enough resources to do that.

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