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Man dies after being trapped in current at base of waterfall in western NC mountains

Waterfalls can be dangerous because of the falling water can trap swimmers to the river bottom or against rocks.
Waterfalls can be dangerous because of the falling water can trap swimmers to the river bottom or against rocks. JOHN D. SIMMONS - jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

A man died late Tuesday at Reems Creek Falls in the western North Carolina mountains, reports WLOS.

The Weaverville Tribune reports the body was recovered Wednesday morning, as the search entered its second day. Reems Creek Falls is about 10 miles northeast of Asheville.

He was identified as 28-year-old Sterlin Swinton of Weaverville on Thursday, according to WLOS.

French Broad Chief Matthew Shelton told WSPA that crews tried unsuccessfully to reach the “body beneath the waterfall Tuesday night” and called off the effort due to darkness. The 50 responders were also hampered by steep terrain and swift currents, the news site said.

Authorities were first called to the waterfall in Buncombe County on Tuesday evening, after 8 p.m., WSPA said. The man reportedly fell over the waterfall just prior to the 911 call, WYFF reported.

He had been swimming in the creek before vanishing, according to The Weaverville Tribune. The newspaper says “there were at least four people at the scene in their late 20s to early 30s” at the time of the incident.

Reems Creek Falls is located on private property near the spot where Reems Creek empties into the French Broad River “in a small gorge like area,” according to wnc.waterfalls.info.

Experts say the weight of water pouring over a waterfall can often “trap a swimmer” against creek bottoms and rocks, according to The Outdoor Swimming Society.

The higher the waterfall, the greater the danger, the society’s website says.

Summer is almost here, and that means the Placer County Sheriff's Office dive team is in the water training for swift water rescues. Most of the calls the Dive Team responds to are on rivers, according to the sheriff's office.

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