The stormy weather last weekend has already claimed at least four lives in our area. Three men were killed when their vehicle hydroplaned after water covered the road on Highway 27 just west of Lincolnton Friday night. On Wednesday morning, a motorcyclist was killed when his motorcycle struck a fallen tree on Highway 73 in far eastern Lincoln County. Gaston County officials are hoping they won't have to add a missing 14-year-old boy to the list.
Ethan Britt and a friend, David Winder, ignored the warnings of dangers related to rivers swollen by the weekend downpour and entered the South Fork near Spencer Mountain Monday evening about 6:30. When Britt didn't return home, his father went looking for him. He found articles of his clothing where the boys had entered the river and reported his son missing about 11 PM Monday night, but what had happened didn't become clear until the next day.
On Tuesday morning, a motorist on the Spencer Mountain-Stanley Road noticed from the bridge someone stranded on an island in the river. Winder was rescued, and told responders that his friend, Ethan, and he had become separated in the river. He was treated at CaroMont Regional Medical Center in Gastonia and later released. Then the Gaston County Police, other law enforcement agencies, emergency medical personnel, volunteer firemen and others began searching for Ethan Britt.
The search contined Wednesday and Thursday, but since waters had receded the river was too shallow for any continued search by boat and the banks of the river had been searched extensively, so Thursday's search was mostly by drones.
Now missing for over three days, the hopes of finding Ethan alive are fading--but that possibility has not been ruled out. Searchers said he may have been injured and made it out of the river but with injuries, he might have been unable to make it to safety. That's the possibility that gives them hope.
Britt's family has asked for prayers for the young man. "We don't want to give up hope," said one minister whose church made Ethan the subject of its prayer meeting Wednesday night.
William Melton of Gaston County Emergency Management told us: "On Friday (June 14th) teams will again search the river utilizing swift water teams that will search by raft and on foot as the water levels have receded to just above 4 feet, which preclude the use of motorized boats in many areas of the river; we'll also search by air with drones, and use sonar equipment in the area where Ethan was last seen in the water. This significant drop in water level, currently at 4.3 feet, currently has provided us an improved window of opportunity to search for Ethan. Please continue to pray for Ethan, his family, and our responders.
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