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Two drownings reported

LAKE WYLIE -- A teenager drowned Friday night while swimming in Lake Wylie, authorities said.

The man, identified by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police as Tai Vu Nguyen, 19, of Charlotte was swimming across a cove at McDowell Park Nature Preserve in Steele Creek. He began struggling, then went under the lake's surface, the man's friends told WSOC-TV.

The Charlotte Fire Department's dive squad found the man about 9 p.m., an hour after he went under the water. Medic workers performed CPR on him while he was rushed to CMC-Pineville, where he was pronounced dead.

On Friday afternoon, divers pulled the body of a 27-year-old Charlotte man from the Catawba River near Interstate 77 around noon after he drowned, officials said.

Friends and family said the drowning victim, identified as Gildardo Perez, had been fishing with a friend, Marcelo Mendoza Belasco, near the mouth of Dutchman Creek when he disappeared into the river around 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

Cotton Howell, York County Emergency Management director, confirmed Friday afternoon that family had identified the body as Perez.

Emergency crews using boats, diving equipment and airplanes searched the area until sundown Thursday, then took up the search again at first light Friday.

The drowning appeared to be accidental, Howell said. The victim was not wearing a flotation device or any safety equipment. Water flow from the Lake Wylie dam, located just upstream, was lessened to aid the search.

Fernando Aguilar was on the banks of the Catawba when his uncle was pulled from the river.

He said Perez had been fishing on rocks in the river with his friend on Thursday. Aguilar said Belasco, who does not speak English, told him at one point he turned to speak to his friend and he was not there.

"He didn't know how to swim," Aguilar said of his uncle. "He wasn't planning on going into the water. We don't know if he slipped. We don't know anything."

Howell sounded a cautionary note for the remainder of the holiday weekend. Dozens of kayakers were in the same area Friday.

"The things that make the river fun also make it dangerous," Howell said, referring to free-flowing water, wildlife and other natural elements.

"All these things make it a great place, but they create hazards if you don't take the proper precautions."

-- reports from Charlotte Observer and The Herald