This article was published in the Lenoir News-Topic.
A 21-year-old Guatemalan man who was visiting family in Morganton drowned in Wilson Creek Monday after being overtaken by heavy currents.
Rescue crews pulled the man from the water at 7 p.m., about two hours after first responders were dispatched at 4:50 p.m. Authorities did not release the man’s name Monday night because his immediate family was in Guatemala and had not yet been notified.
The man was swimming in the part of Wilson Creek known as “the bathtub,” the same place where two Charlotte-area swimmers, 10-year-old Delilah Lovett and 48-year-old Juan Alberdi, drowned this July.Rescue crews initially thought the man may have been pinned beneath a rock but found he’d simply been pushed down by strong currents, Collettsville Fire and Rescue Capt. Larry Price said.
The group the man was with – his cousins and friends from Morganton – realized around 4 p.m. that it had been about 20 minutes since they had seen him. They immediately began searching for him and several people who had been swimming nearby joined in to help, including Brian and Christy Stevens and at least one other woman whose name was not released.
With no cellphone service, Christy Stevens ran down the road and flagged down a truck, asking its driver to call 911. Brian Stevens, a Navy veteran, spent about 30 minutes searching for the man.
The first search and rescue teams were dispatched at 4:50 p.m. Dive crews from Collettsville Fire and Rescue, the Gamewell Fire Department, the Hudson Fire Department and North Catawba Fire and Rescue searched the water while members of the Valmead Fire Department searched the bank.
Most of the man’s family members and did not speak English, but rescuers took two English-speaking boys down to the water to point out where, exactly, the incident occurred.
The man was not wearing a life jacket. People aren’t required to wear those in Wilson Creek, but Collettsville Fire and Rescue has strongly encouraged them after a spate of rescues this summer.
“We’ve had a lot of water this year,” Price said. “The water has stayed higher more than in past years.”