HIGH SHOALS, N.C. (WBTV) - Rescue crews in Gaston County say they have recovered the body of a 16-year-old girl who drowned after slipping into the South Fork Catawba River on Monday.
According to the Gaston County Office of Emergency Management, rescue crews have recovered the body they say is presumed to be that of 16-year-old Makenna Warlick, pending official identification, around 5:20 p.m. on Tuesday.
Officials say the body was located just below the High Shoals Dam where she was last seen in the water.
The search took place near the bridge off of Old US 321 in High Shoals, a community in north Gaston County. Officials say three teenage girls were in the river near the dam when one of them slipped into the water, prompting a rescue operation.
Two of the girls were located and brought to safety uninjured.
The investigation into the incident determined that the teens had not jumped off the bridge into the water, as was originally reported, but instead that the teenagers had been swimming in the river and exploring the rocky area downstream from the bridge when the 16-year-old slipped and fell into the water.
Officials held a press conference about the efforts to recover the victim’s body Tuesday morning.
Bill Schmidt was there when the girl went into the water. He jumped into the rushing river and tried to save the teen
“One minute you’re standing in water ankle deep the next minute you’re over your head,” Schmidt said. “I ran over there and emptied my pockets, jumped in and tried my best to find her. Rushing water... I mean it’s real strong, it’s the bottom of a waterfall. Bunch of rocks and you can’t see, water is real dirty.”
Schmidt says the two girls who were with the victim were also panicked. He carried one on his back to get her out of the water, but says he wishes he could have done more for the girl who died.
“I feel so sorry that I couldn’t get her out,” Schmidt said. “I never met the girl, but I feel attached to her now even though she’s gone.”
Crews say the pressure of the water is what was preventing anyone from being able to retrieve the victim’s body.
Tuesday’s operation included responders from Gaston County Emergency Medical Services, Dallas Rescue Squad, Gaston County Police Department, North Gaston Volunteer Fire and Rescue, Gastonia Fire Department, Charlotte Fire Department, Denver Fire Department, Lincoln County Swift Water Rescue Team, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, Lincoln County Fire Marshal’s Office, American Red Cross, Gaston County Emergency Management and Fire Marshal’s Office, and the North Carolina Office of Emergency Management.