Local News

Mother, child clung to tree before rescue from Cape Fear River

Posted May 2

— Water rescue crews pulled a mother and her son from the Cape Fear River in Harnett County on Tuesday morning.

Harnett County dispatch responded to the scene in Raven Rock State Park, and Jana and Ben Anderson, of Apex, were rescued around 10:45 a.m.

Video from Sky 5 showed a crew in a boat make its way up the river to a branch in the water. Rescuers leaned over the side of the boat and pulled the two people out of the water and into the vessel.

"Me and another firefighter reached and pulled them in. We had another guy driving the boat. There were three of us on there," said Sam Golightly with the Northwest Harnett Fire Department. "They were scared. I reached and grabbed the young boy and told him not to let go."

Jana Anderson said she and her son were at Raven Rock with friends when they went down to see some fishing traps, but couldn't reach them due to high water. The group then decided to stay by the river bank and hang out.

"My friend was showing me a spider web that was really cool. And I was going to turn back...but my foot slipped and I fell in and I tried to grab onto the rock, but it was way too slippery," said fourth-grader Ben Anderson.

"When [Ben] turned to go back up, his foot just flipped. It was just an accident," Jana Anderson said. "And the currently immediately just took him. It was just scary. But I'm so thankful he's part of our neighborhood swim team."

Jana Anderson jumped into the water to rescue her son and both got caught in the current.

"I saw the look of fear in his eyes and I just jumped in and I'm just so thankful that it wasn't my four-year-old who was with us because she isn't able to swim like him and it would've been a different story," Jana Anderson said.

Jana and Ben Anderson were able to grab onto a tree limb and friends, who were struggling to get cell phone reception to dial 911, ran to the trail and found a group of dog walkers who ran to the visitors center to call for help.

The pair held onto the tree for about 30 minutes before emergency officials arrived.

"As soon as we saw the boat, we were so glad. We were just so glad to see it," Jana Anderson said. "They told us just to hold on and they came right up to us. We were so thankful."

WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardener said the Cape Fear River wasn't at flood stage Tuesday morning, but the discharge was about seven times higher than normal, so it was rushing faster.

Golightly said there have been eight watter rescues in Harnett County in the past five days.

"Maybe we won't go fishing or playing by the river after a big rainfall. That's what I took from it," Jana Anderson said.


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