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Body of 14-year-old recovered from South Fork Catawba River, officials say

Police: Body of missing teen found in NC river

Searchers on Friday recovered the body of 14-year-old Ethan Britt, who’d been missing since he went for a swim with a friend in the rain-swollen South Fork Catawba River on Monday night.
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Searchers on Friday recovered the body of 14-year-old Ethan Britt, who’d been missing since he went for a swim with a friend in the rain-swollen South Fork Catawba River on Monday night.

Searchers on Friday recovered the body of 14-year-old Ethan Britt, who’d been missing since he went for a swim with a friend in the rain-swollen South Fork Catawba River on Monday night.

A team of 16 searchers and a specially trained dog found Ethan’s body at about noon just below the Spencer Mountain dam in Gaston County, not far from where he’d last been seen, officials said at a news conference Friday afternoon.

Searchers had previously checked the area where Ethan was found by boat and by air, but receding water levels finally enabled them to find his body, according to emergency management officials. Levels had dropped from a high of 14.1 feet when Ethan went swimming to 3 or 4 feet Friday.

Ethan’s family held out hope all week that he’d be found alive.

He just grew up liking the outdoors,” dad Ike Britt told WBTV in an interview Thursday. “He could’ve gotten up on the bank and got out. They can’t find him in the water, so, I mean, I’ve still got hope and believe he’s still alive.”

Ethan has been missing since he and his friend were swept up in what emergency officials described as treacherous water. They went onto the river at about 8 p.m. Monday.

Ethan’s friend was rescued Tuesday from an island in the middle of the river.

Ike Britt told WBTV that he found items that Ethan left behind, like clothing, before he and his friend went swimming.

“I went looking for him, down the creek,” Ike Britt said. “They pulled their shirts off, and shorts, and went down to the creek. I don’t know how they got down to the (South Fork) Catawba River.”

“Teenage boys, they’re going to get out in a creek,” Ethan’s grandmother, Myra Britt, told WBTV. “But you just wouldn’t imagine them going into the rapid water like they did. But they might have been daring each other, I don’t know. Because teenage boys do that.”

Said Ike Britt: “He likes adventure. He got stuck in the top of a tree one time, had to call the fire department to get him out.”

Ike Britt told WBTV that his son talked about entering the Marines when he was old enough.

On Thursday, crews searched the river with drones, as emergency responders on the ground checked anything spotted by air.

Swift water teams were out again on Friday, this time on rafts. That was because water levels had dropped to just above 4 feet, preventing crews from using motorized boats, emergency officials said.

“Please continue to pray for Ethan’s family and our responders during this difficult time,” W.S. Melton Jr., spokesman for the Gaston County Office of Emergency Management, said at Friday’s news conference.

A GoFundMe page is raising money for Ethan’s funeral.

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Joe Marusak has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1989 covering the people, municipalities and major news events of the region, and was a news bureau editor for the paper. He currently reports on breaking news.

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