Cape Fear Current Traps Victim, Rescuers
Posted April 9, 1999
SANFORD — What started out as canoe trip launched from Buckhorn Dam at 7 p.m. turned into a life or death situation on the Cape Fear River Friday night.
Rescue workers were forced to maneuver through strong currents in a rock-filled river in the middle of the night.
The river was moving fast, and less than half an hour later, near Lett's Landing, the canoe was upside down.
Two men, D.J. Davis, 18, and Butch Adams, 21, both of Angier, swam to shore, but the third man, 19-year-old Jeremy Dawls, clung to a rock. Dawls is also from Angier.
"It was dark. He couldn't see. I'm not sure whether he could swim or not," says Chief Pat Garner of the Lee County Rescue Squad. "Just the turbulence of the current strikes fear in a lot of people."
Davis and Adams walked two miles through woods to find a house, from which they called Adams' father. He called 911. Garner and the Lee County Rescue Squad were called to the scene shortly after 3:30 a.m., but soon they were in trouble themselves.
"The rescuers were on their way to shore with the victim and found themselves against a rock," Garner said. "The current of the water caused the boat to tip sideways."
The wide whitewater swallowed up the rescue boat in seconds. But more rescue workers were able to pull the rescue team and the stranded man to safety. In the end, Garner's rescue squad lost a boat and motor, but no lives.
"I'm relieved that it turned out as well as it did," he said.
Davis finally made it to safety about 7:45 a.m. Saturday, on an inflatable raft owned by Chatham County Star team.
Before the rescue was over, personnel were called from Harnett and Chatham counties, along with N.C. Wildlife Resource staffers.
The chief says there are a few things to remember when planning a canoeing trip. He suggest planning the trip during daylight, knowing the water you are navigating, and letting people know when to expect you at your destination.