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Three people were found dead Thursday in the Dan River, North Carolina, after a group ran over a dam in a hose and drowned, according to the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office. Two members of the group remain missing.
They were among the nine residents who hiked to the river around sunset on Wednesday, the authorities said.
On Thursday, a Duke Energy official told authorities that four people were holding onto a single tube in the river and appeared to need help, according to Sam Page, the Rockingham County sheriff.
“They were all holding on for their lives,” said Sheriff Page.
The four tubers were saved and taken to a hospital, he said.
A rescue helicopter found the three bodies in the river, Sheriff Page said, adding that the search for the two missing tubers would continue. By Friday morning the search had expanded to Danville, Virginia.
The authorities declined to disclose the names of the three people killed and the ages of the other tubers. Sheriff Page said his office was still investigating why the group was out on the river so late.
“I worked here as a sheriff for 23 years, but this is probably the largest number of casualties,” he said. “I don’t remember seeing such a high proportion of potential drowning.”
There are signs on the river warning people of the approaching dam, the sheriff said.
“There are a lot of people on the water this time of year,” said Sheriff Page. “You just have to be careful.”