Sheriff gives update on search for missing tubers
Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page provides an update on the search for two people missing on the Dan River after a tubing excursion that left three others dead.
randy Cates, our Emergency services director for the county Rockingham County. At this time, I have some information that I can release pertaining uh, to the persons that were recovered and also the person's uh, that were rescued at the dam. Yesterday. Just to be real quick on. The information is yesterday around 33 30. We received a call uh, through the 91 center. That there was persons near the dam that needed assistance. Understanding are rescuers respond to the location of the dam, which is located at the steam station on Edgewood Drive, Duke Energy Steam Station Dam Area. Rescuers went to that location. Were able to rescue uh, four persons at that time, I'm going to give you the names of basic information of those persons and you will be able to get this information shortly electronically. Uh, One of the persons rescued was Ruben Vellano 30 age 30 of Eden north Carolina. Another person uh rescued was eric Bellino, 14 years of age from Eden north Carolina, Ruben's son, Irene Molino 18 of Eden North Carolina rubens, daughter And Carlos Bellino. 14 years old of laporte indiana. They were in town visiting family as we talked about before. We believe that everyone was family and knew each other. three individuals that were recovered from the river uh, between 4 39 30 last night. During the search when I rescue teams out along the river and also the support of the north Carolina state howard Patrol helicopter aviation unit, uh, when they recovered a british uh, british Crawford 27 of Eden North Carolina and she is a relative of Ruben Paulino Antonio ramon, 30 years of age from Eden North Carolina And Sophie Wilson 14 of Laporte Indiana Who is also in town visiting family. The two individuals are still missing at this time of this release are as follows. Theresa Bellino. 30 years of age from Eden North Carolina. She's the sister of Ruben Bellino up. And also missing is a Isiah Crawford. I say a Crawford. Seven years of age from Eden north Carolina, a son of british crawford. So those are the persons that are who were rescued, their specific names and where they're from. Those persons that were recovered uh, by rescue teams yesterday between 4 39 30. And then of course the two persons that are still missing that we are searching for being Teresa Avellino. And I say a crawford, Okay, at this time I'm going to introduce you back to Mr Rodney Cates, our emergency services director and he'll be able to tell you a little bit more about today's search its activities. Uh, any information will tell you there and also what our plans are for the next. So how that will go escapes. So, we resumed our search efforts this morning about 6:00, we had highway patrol helicopter in the area again, flying the river also flying a wider perimeter on each side of the river. They did not locate anything as they flew. Probably tell about lunchtime. They, we had 34 boats. Excuse me, four boats on the water today. Two boats from our area um, traveling, we started back at the dam. We we searched again north from the dam all the way to the Virginia State line. We had the crews from the danville pennsylvania county area. They were traveling south on the river from their area. Our crews actually met at the Virginia state line. Um They too have located nothing as of yet. Um, We regrouped at lunchtime. We went back out with two more boats. We went to the Duke Energy plant and offloaded. Um, We began to search from the dam area all the way back to the bridge that is right behind us now. Uh, this is the location that we did the recovery's last night. Again, we've not located anything as of this time. The plan for tomorrow. We have some fresh crews coming in from other counties, fresh set of eyes, fresh equipment. Um, some people that perhaps could look at it from a different angle than we have seen it for the last two days. We have high point confirmed. Their water team will be here for South County will have a water team here. We have some other water teams potentially coming, but they have not been confirmed as of yet. We will not at this point be flying an aircraft tomorrow. It'll all be a water search by boat on the river. Um, Hopefully it'll turn up some, some something positive. But at this time we're still we're still positive and optimistic but well we'll see how things go tomorrow. Also. Uh we'll let you know that we will have some law enforcement helping with the staging points for any media that may be coming out tomorrow. Just look for the law enforcement officer of the deputy there and they can tell you where to park. We remind you please be safe when you're out here. If you've got a safety vest, please wear it. If you're near the roadways. Very important, we don't see anybody get hurt out here. Also, I want to say something. It's a very tragic situation. There are a lot of people involved in the search over the past 26 hours. We're going to continue the search and we're gonna continue the search uh as MrCates said, well, due diligence because we want to find these people, make sure they're okay. But we also want to ask you to to say a prayer for the family, the ones who lost a loved one that are connected to this tragic incident that occurred down here at the dam. And again, like I said, we want to also thank all of our first responders are rescue members that are out of the river and train on the river regularly for these exact situations to help others. Because that's what we do. We train so we can help others to save lives. So again, we appreciate everybody coming out. We appreciate everybody support, and also for the churches and the businesses that donated food to help support our people out here in the field that are working during this rescue uh and search period. Thank you. Thank them so much. Also at this time, we'll take a few questions. But I want you remember that the names of information we have, we will send to your news stations electronically. So if you have any questions, we'll take a few at this point is still a rescue effort. We don't have any indication that it's a recovery. We have recovered three people, but we want to remain positive and optimistic that we will do a rescue rather than a recovery. You say anything more about why they were so close to them, How they came back close in the first place? We don't know. And yesterday when we rescued those that were near the dam, uh their medical condition was priority. So we didn't interview him and ask him those type questions. So we really don't don't know at this point. Our investigators, Excuse me. Our investigators will be following up to try to answer some of those questions. But right now, one big question was, is where the person's from? Uh, how long have you been here? And I can't answer that question. But I knew that most of the persons were from the eating area. But again, I don't know how long they have lived in Eden and the familiarity with the waterways. Okay. I have not heard. I checked this morning and I did not get an update this morning. They did not have life threatening injuries, but I do not know if they've been released as of yet. Wait, wait, wait. At this point it's been over 24 hours since it all started. How at what point do you start to maybe think this is more of a recovery effort? And you know, how long can we get people to be on this water on the look for? You know, if you will start thinking about things negative one tomorrow, bringing fresh eyes in. We want somebody to look at the water, look at the debris in the water from a from a new standpoint, um are people have seen it? They understand that they know what's there. So perhaps a new set of eyes could shed a new light on something that out there. So that's why we're remaining optimistic at this time. We'll see what tomorrow turns up and and well, if we need to change our focus later tomorrow, we can. But at this point, we're still optimistic that we'll do a rescue somebody over this way. We do not know if they were wearing life jackets are not the recoveries that we made, They were not wearing life jackets, but we we can't confirm uh, what the others have on or did not have on um, the challenges, the weather has been very good. It's a little bit hot and our people have gotten hot but we've kept him hydrated. So overall, we've not had a lot of challenges that we're able to navigate. The river. Aircraft was able to fly and good visibility. So overall, we've not had a lot a lot of challenges. So where they still when they cleaning to their tubes? When first responders arrived yesterday? Yes. In the water. They were in the water clean to the tube yesterday and had been there for many hours. Can you tell us more about having box? They were very tired, very fatigued. They have been subject to the elements for 19 hours. Somewhere in the neighborhood. So very, very fatigued. Very strange from the elements of the day of the night and the physical strength it took to hold on until we got somebody there. No, there were probably three or 4 tubes they were holding on to. Yes, don't hate Yes, I don't have anything like this. I think not to this magnitude. We've had water rescues. It's typically one patient, two at the most to have nine. Um four rescues, three recoveries to missing. We've not had anything of that magnitude and that. I know what? Damn it. A problem spot. Before. What? Not to my knowledge. No. Come inside. We'll be out actually. Everybody's off the water at this time. The aircraft is not coming back tonight. So, uh back behind us. They're winding up the operation now, so we'll probably be another hour. But we're off the water. The search is suspended at this time. There just in the cleanup effort. Getting there, all the equipment story back to your knowledge. Has this happened before? So, No, no, I haven't seen the damage. How high is today. It's 8ft over the water. We looked at a construction drawing over the earlier. The actual Dry conditions is 8.5 ft high. But you know, with the water there's two or three ft water at the bottom of it, which is just turning and a hydraulic manner. So you've probably got Five ft of the dam out of the water that it's flowing over. If you go to, if you, if you look at the dam and I went out there a little bit today. If you look at the dam at the base of it and go out about 3-5 ft out from it, you can see the hydraulics moving backwards and stuff like this. So that's a dangerous spot for any overhead damn. And we do we do have some in the county. Uh, you know, I always tell people be careful when you are around the dam because of the of the hydraulic situation, because you've got enough water running over it could put you in a dangerous situation on the other side of the base of it. I was just talking about this. Yeah. Our crews have been on the water since 6:00 this morning and we need to protect our crews and protect their safety and their fatigue level. It's been hot on today. So that's why we're pulling off the water this time. And and some of the questions are asked pertaining to the persons that that were rescued. We'll still be talking to them. But like I said, they've been out like Mr Cates said and we'll be following up, but we need to give them a little time for recovery. Also been through a very terrible situation, terrible other places such beyond this group. That yes, that's the reason we're bringing in multiple watercraft tomorrow. Uh The plan is to search from the dam back to this point and we'll have other crews that will deploy at this point and search further north. So yes, we'll try to traverse the entire waterway again as best we can. Mr Cates. How far were the person's recovered from the dam roughly? About three miles from where we are now back to the dam is right around the 33 mile mark, recover the bodies in those three months. They were all within this area, so they were all 2.623 miles away from the from the dam. Honey, I asked him warning. Okay, love. There is there is a sign that indicates the dam is coming up. It's an overhead sign. So I've been asked earlier was it underwater? It's an overhead sign that they can see prior to coming to the dam. Uh, it's on boat actually both sides of the river. No, Duke Energy built the dam for the gold plan. Is it still in use for the gas plant? Now, I can't confirm or deny. I don't, I don't know what they have to refer to Duke Energy on that. Yeah. We talked about the technology guys always out of water by mountain line of rubber. These individuals also has. Everybody knew this guy. So yeah, that would be up to the tourists and reparation people to make that decision. The technology we're using. We use automatic locations. We have all our people that are on the watercraft have some automatic location devices with them. So we can pinpoint at all times where they are on the water. Um, if they are to locate something, we can pinpoint that on a map using longitude and latitude so that we can go back and search that area later. Um, So yes, a lot of technology into this. Are you running into a lot of no more than normal? I mean that broken trees and things of that nature, it's always always gonna be there, but nothing out of the ordinary speak to the terrain around because they thanks mm was a perfect get on. Okay, okay, ready. It's not some of the areas. Sand is actually like a beach area, but I think the hydraulic of the water, they couldn't get out of that. So it had them trapped in that hydraulic and they couldn't get to the beach areas. It's kind of like an undertone. It kind of pulls you back. Just a question for you to Ronnie because I know you and your department has seen a lot the past 12 months helicopter crash and other aircraft crash. Now these water rescues a young, how are you all doing? And are there any mental health issues? We have, uh, some employment assistance for our people and we offer that to them. There have been critical incident. Debriefing is done with with all of the responders that needed or felt they needed it. Um, this is equally tragic for our responders, what they have to see what they have to go through. So that's, I was asked the question, why are we coming off the water now? We have to protect our people as well. Um, they have families to go home to and we need to make sure that their physical and mental health is stable at all times as well. A couple more questions. A couple more, everybody. Good. He said he'll be looking for this of course Virginia Flood. Other eight, right, you're danville and pennsylvania County. Uh We've already contacted them and they've been traveling north correction south on the river from the Danville area back to this way. So that that's right. They probably won't. We think the target area would be from then go back this way at this point. Richard machines and people that are probably gonna be hitting the rivers out this way all across the state this upcoming. They need to wear personal flotation devices. Um The inner tube is not a personal flotation device. If it deflates and a person doesn't have personal flotation device, then they're struggling in the water and the water that has current has debris, It has rocks very hard to navigate. So, people need to wear life jackets, life vest, whatever is they can use as a personal flotation device as the secondary means. Because if that inner tube goes down, they're gonna need some assistance to get out of it. All right, last question. Mhm. Guess spelling. Yeah. We're gonna send those to you. Yes sir. You'll get those electronically. Guys I want to say I want to say it's worth the time. Thank all the media for helping us get our message out there, what we're doing and showing what the first responders doing trying to save lives here in Rockingham County. We appreciate everybody's thoughts and prayers. Um And again, as any other information is developed, we'll make sure we'll let you know. Uh Thank you very much. And uh at this time uh we're gonna in our press conference. Thank you. Thank you. Mhm. Yeah. Ladies and gentlemen, I'll be sending that shortly here electronically. I'm gonna have to relocate to get a better signal in order to you email that to you but I'll be emailing it to your respective ages. Um