Survivor of Rockingham County tubing accident recalls struggle to survive; pregnant woman still missing

North Carolina news

EDEN, N.C. (WNCN/WFMY) – A North Carolina family is grieving after losing four loved ones after going over a dam while tubing on the Dan River in Rockingham County.

Nine family members went tubing on the Dan River around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday night, just before dark. At some point, the tubes went over a Duke Energy dam in Eden.

Four people were rescued. Three who died had their bodies found in the river, with 7-year-old Isaiah Crawford being the most recent to be recovered. Crews are still looking for 35-year-old Teresa Villano.

“That’s when he went down and I don’t remember hearing,” 18-year-old Irene Villano recalled to CBS affiliate WFMY. “I don’t remember hearing him, and then double thought I saw the rest of my family and they were all with him — my mom and my brother and my cousins and my dad, everybody.”

Villano said she hung back at first. She held onto a tree, but then decided to join her family. When she went over, she said she saw all of her family’s stuff, but her loved ones were out of sight.

“I finally looked over and it was my dad and he was like, ‘Help me. Help me get mom,’ Villano said. “We were trying but we couldn’t do anything, and it was already too late. I remember I looked over and I just seen my dad and my brother and my cousin, and I was so happy to see them.

“I thought I was alone. I thought I was by myself.”

Irene villano

As the water swirled, Villano made her way over to a wall to hang on to a small hole in the wall.

“Big enough for me to stick my pinky through, and I held onto that the whole entire time, the whole entire time,” Villano said. “And it was all of us all of us were together.”

Villano said she prayed as the sun went down.

“I said, ‘I hope you allow us to see another day,” she recalled. “And sunlight. And I remember, after that, my brother looked over and he was like, ‘The sun is coming out. The sun is coming up.'”

Villano said she kept calling for help.

“And then I screamed help for the last time,” she said. “A few moments after that, all of them started yelling, and I remember I looked over and there was a truck.”

She and three other family members were rescued. They were pulled from the river and taken to the hospital.

“These for our heroes. They kept everyone up,” Villano said. “I thank my sister, who is no longer here who told her daughter the power of prayer. As she used that to keep them all alive.”

Now Villano is asking for prayers for her pregnant sister, Teresa Villano, who is still missing.

“Just prayers that we find her,” she said. “And hope that we have a miracle that she is alive.”

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