Labor Day weekend drowning victim marks 4th death at Falls Lake this year

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The body of a man who vanished Saturday evening in the waters at Falls Lake was found Sunday afternoon.

The Wake County Sheriff’s Office said he was last seen in the lake with friends around 7 p.m. Saturday night.

Authorities identified the drowning victim as Kenneth Jerome Harris, 28, of Raleigh.

Divers were in the water until midnight Saturday. They returned Sunday morning. The drowning was ruled accidental, officials said.

“It’s a little unnerving for me because I have my grandbaby,” said Vickie Brant who visited the lake Sunday afternoon. Like many others, she went to Falls Lake to enjoy the holiday weekend but was met with the sight of emergency vehicles.

“I’m saying ‘well what is going on’,” she said.

Rescue and recovery teams spent hours searching for the missing North Carolina man. His friends told the sheriff’s office they were with him in the water but he suddenly disappeared under the water and did not resurface.

“These things unfortunately don’t come with a time frame. We’ll be out here until we find what we’re looking for,” said Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker.

Baker said the lake was a difficult environment to search. The current can quickly move a body and the lake bottom is covered in tree limbs and stumps.

“If you’re going to get in those waters and you’re not sure, or not a strong swimmer, make sure your wear a flotation device,” he urged.

It’s the kind of behavior Brant, a nurse, models for her grandchildren.

“You do have to watch children all the time because they can get away from you in a minute’s time,” she said.

Ben Sloan has two little ones himself to keep track of.

“We always stay in designated swim areas and that, for my girls, we keep them in approved life vests and keep an eye on them to make sure they’re not too far away,” Sloan said.

Baker said the pandemic increased the number of people who visit area lakes. More people means more possibilities for drownings. This was the fourth drowning at Falls Lake this year.

“There’s no control to what’s going to happen if you get out there. It could go any direction,” Baker said.

The Wake County Sheriff’s Office Marine Team had help from boat and dive teams from Lee, Durham, Wilson and Franklin counties, Curry said.

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