14-year-old missing on South Fork Catawba River found dead

Body found in search for missing teen on NC river

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 an 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.”

Gaston Co. police hold press conference after body missing swimmer Ethan Britt found

Ethan’s friend, 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.

14-year-old Ethan Danny Britt went missing while swimming on the South Fork Catawba River on Monday, June 10, 2019.
14-year-old Ethan Danny Britt went missing while swimming on the South Fork Catawba River on Monday, June 10, 2019. (Source: Provided by Family)

Residents along the water were being asked to be on the lookout for any signs of Ethan. His 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.

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.

WATER RESCUE UNDERWAY: Crews are searching for a missing person on the South Fork Catawba River in Spencer Mountain. A teen who officials say went into the water with the person last night was rescued from an island this morning » https://bit.ly/2Ixgufn

Posted by WBTV News on Tuesday, June 11, 2019

During a press conference on Tuesday, officials said Winder 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.”

Gaston officials provide update on water rescue at South Fork Catawba River

While searching, officials say they had to fight rapids, debris, poisonous snakes and high waters.

Wednesday, efforts to find Britt will begin again at 7 a.m. with the introduction of K9s to the search, and hopefully, they say, more electronic equipment, as waters settle.

Runoff from previous heavy rain has worked its way further downstream, the National Weather Service says. A flood warning remained in effect for the area Tuesday.

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.

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

Teams from multiple agencies searched the South Fork Catawba River again on Friday, ultimately finding Ethan’s body.

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