Three dead in tubing tragedy after dropping over dam in inflatable rings

Three people have died and another two are missing after an extended family of nine floating in rubber rings dropped over the edge of a dam.

Tragedy struck near Dan River near Eden, North Carolina, USA, when some became untethered and went over the eight-foot power dam.

Three members of the party who were all visiting from Indiana – Bridish Crawford, 27, Antonio Ramon, 30, and Sophie Wilson, 14 – all died according to Rockingham County emergency services director Rodney Cates.

Reuben's sister, Teresa Villino, and seven-year-old Isiah Crawford, the son of Bridish, are still missing, the New York Post reports.

Four of the nine were found by construction workers at around 3.30pm on Thursday after spending 19 hours in the water and "hanging onto various items," said the workmen.

Authorities identified the survivors as Rueben Villino, 35, his son, 14-year-old Eric Villino, his daughter, 18-year-old Irene Villino and Karlos Villino, 14.

The river is a popular venue for tubing, which involves floating at speed down fast water but thrillseekers normally get off their tubes or rafts and walk around the dam, which is marked by signs.

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The youngest victim’s mother, Megan Heitz, shared a heartbreaking Facebook post Friday afternoon confirming her daughter’s death.

She said: "As many may have heard yes my daughter Sophia Wilson passed away in a tragic tubing accident visiting family in North Carolina.

"Words can’t explain what we feel right now, she was my best friend, a sweetheart and had so much life to live she was the most amazing daughter in so many ways, my life will never ever be the same a piece of me died."

Mr Cates said rescuers were going to "stay positive we can do a rescue rather than a recovery" with the search continuing on Saturday.

He added: "We have done both an air and water search at this time. We've had an aircraft that has flown the river.

"They flew six miles into Virginia, they came back widened their perimeter and flew the ground area adjacent to the river."

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