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Teen exploring ‘treacherous’ Charlotte area river remains missing, police say

Search underway for missing 14-year-old on swollen NC river

Crews are searching for 14-year-old Ethan Danny Britt, who went missing while swimming in the South Fork Catawba River Monday night.
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Crews are searching for 14-year-old Ethan Danny Britt, who went missing while swimming in the South Fork Catawba River Monday night.

Emergency responders searched the South Fork Catawba River in vain again Wednesday for a 14-year-old boy who went missing while swimming in the dangerously swollen river with another teen on Monday evening, police said.

Ethan Danny Britt was reported missing to the Gaston County Police Department at about 11 p.m., police said.

He and the other teen went swimming around 6:30 p.m., about the time the river crested at 15 feet from persistent rains in recent days, Gaston County emergency officials said at a news conference Tuesday.

Keith Rapp, Gaston County emergency management director, described the river as “treacherous” on Tuesday and said searchers even had to avoid poisonous snakes that had been dislodged by the rains.

On Wednesday, searchers used a helicopter, swift water teams and numerous drones to look for Ethan from north of the dam at Spencer Mountain south to Lake Wylie, Rapp said at a late-afternoon news conference. Rescuers also searched the river banks, he said.

Early Tuesday, the teen Ethan had been with was rescued from an island in the middle of the river, according to police.

The teen was rescued after police and Gaston Emergency Medical Services were called to a bridge on Stanley-Spencer Mountain Road about the stranded person, police said. Police have not released the name and age of the teen they rescued.

Gaston County police said in a news release Tuesday that the rescued teen told them the pair became separated “while exploring the river area.”

At news conference Tuesday, emergency officials said the rescued teen was treated for exposure, but did not elaborate. The teen was soon released to his family.

Officials urged the public to avoid boating, kayaking and swimming in the river until water levels return to normal.

Also searching the river area for Ethan on Tuesday were specially trained police dogs, along with 55 trained rescuers initially and up to 70 throughout the day, officials said. Rescuers came from the Charlotte Fire Department, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and about a half-dozen Gaston County fire and rescue departments.

The search for Ethan resumed at 7 a.m. Wednesday, officials said. Members of 21 police, rescue, emergency management and other agencies are helping with the serach, Rapp said.

Police described Ethan as white, 5-foot-4 and 140 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes and a scar under his right eye.

Anyone who has seen or had contact with Ethan is encouraged to call 911 or the Gaston County Police Department front desk at 704-866-3320.

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