The body of 16-year-old Makenna Warlick was pulled from the South Fork River at High Shoals at 5:20 Tuesday afternoon. She was one of three girls who decided to explore the South Fork on Monday. Just before 4 PM Monday, the Gaston County Communications Center received a call that a girl had jumped off the Jack Whitener Bridge on US 321 business at High Shoals.
That report turned out to be in error.
The other two girls were immediately located and both were well and uninjured. The search for Makenna located her body in the river a short time later. Investigators from the Gaston County Police Department said the teenagers had been swimming in the river and exploring the rocky area downstream from the bridge when the incident occurred. It appears that Makenna was walking across the dam and slipped and fell into the river.
Recovery of her body was difficult. Responders lowered water levels at the dam, which allowed them to locate the victim. Water turbulence, however, made recovery impossible. A storm Monday night produced a lightning strike that shut down the generator being used to pump the water causing the water level to rise to the point where responders were unable to continue recovery efforts. Repairs were attempted through the night but with no success. A generator repairman was called and he arrived on the scene around noon Tuesday.
At approximately 1:15 Tuesday afternoon, repairs to the generator were completed. Water levels were again reduced and the recovery operation continued. The water flow was diverted away from the area where the victim was located.
At 5:20 PM her body was recovered just below the High Shoals Dam where she was last seen in the water.
Responders from Gaston County Emergency Medical Services, the Dallas Rescue Squad, Gaston County Police Department, North Gaston Volunteer Fire & Rescue, Gastonia Fire Department, Charlotte Fire Department, Denver Fire Department, Lincoln County Swift Water Rescue Team, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, Lincoln County Fire Marshal’s Office, American Red Cross, Gaston County Emergency Management and Fire Marshal’s Office, and the North Carolina Office of Emergency Management assisted in the recovery operation.
Makenna would have been a junior this Fall at West Lincoln High School. A friend of her family has set up a GoFundMe page to help pay funeral expenses. CLICK HERE.
It was the second tragic death on the South Fork River this month. A Gaston County boy drowned at Spencer Mtn. after he and a friend went swimming following heavy rains in early June.
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