Local News

Popular Swimming Hole Earning Bad Reputation

Posted Updated
Switch to classic wral.com

HARNETT COUNTY — For the second year in a row, someone has drowned at a popular Harnett County lake on the July Fourth weekend.

Steven Wilfong, 31, was with friends at Acapulco Lake near Lillington early Sunday morning. He jumped in at about 1:30 a.m., but never surfaced. His body was recovered about four and a half hours later.

This was not the first drowning at Acapulco Lake. Michael Giles, 47, drowned in the lake on July 5, 1999.

Giles apparently slipped on a rock and fell into the dark, 60-foot-deep waters.

News of Wilfong's drowning this weekend struck a painful chord with Giles' sister, Karen Brown.

"We thought they had closed it down," Brown said. "It brought back all those memories of the day they came by here and told me [Giles] had drowned."

A man, who identified himself only as the owner of the lake, said Monday that he was upset by the drowning, but he said that Acapulco Lake was just as safe as other swimming areas without lifeguards.

"We don't have currents," he said. "We don't have anything to tangle anybody up. We've cleaned everything out. Every now and then, we have an accident, and we regret it."

Acapulco Lake is an old rock quarry, located just west of Lillington. Exact figures were not available, but Harnett County Sheriff Larry Knott said drownings at the lake date back over 25 years.

Swimmers go to Acapulco Lake at their own risk. Signs are posted around the lake, warning swimmers that there are no lifeguards on duty. Visitors are also warned not to trespass, but the public is allowed to swim in the lake on weekends and holidays.

Some neighbors say the lake is unsafe -- especially for children. Bernard Smith lives across the street from the swimming hole, and said, "If you don't have anybody down there that's a real good swimmer, it could be a sad story from somebody."

For Karen Brown, the answer is simple.

"Just stay away from there," said Brown. "There's Jordan Lake, Falls Lake, public swimming pools that have lifeguards. There are a lot of other places you can go."

Sheriff Knott says that his office is still investigating this weekend's drowning.