A day of celebration ended in devastation, as a 16-year-old girl was swept over a North Carolina waterfall while celebrating July 4th with her family. Sadly, she did not survive.
The 16-year-old girl (who’s name has not been released) and an 11-year-old companion were celebrating July 4th while sitting in a pool above Rainbow Falls in Transylvania Country, North Carolina, per the Charlotte Observer. This day of fun turned deadly, as around noon, the strong currents of the river’s waters swept the teen over the edge, sending her plummeting 150 feet down the falls. It took emergency crews four and a half hours to find her body, as a team of 45 rescuers desperately searched, hoping that she somehow survived.
“When you go over the top, you’re done,” Lake Toxaway Fire Chief Carmon West told CBS 17. “You’re not going to see, you’re not going to remember. I hate to be cruel but some way or another we have to alleviate the waterfall deaths.” The girl was at Rainbow Falls for a Fourth of July party with “a large family group.” A woman who identified herself as the teen’s aunt was just in shock over the loss of the young girl’s life. “I don’t know how to talk.”
Rainbow Falls sits on the Horsepasture River on Pisgah National Forest property, according to the Asheville Citizen Times, but the 1.5 mile trail to the waterfall starts at Gorges State Park. Rangers say there are several warning signs at the park’s visitor center about the dangers of climbing and swimming in waterfalls. Sadly, their warnings were in vain.
Unfortunately, this tragedy is just the latest in what has become a horrifying trend: the girl’s death is the second fatality at Rainbow falls in less than two weeks, and the sixth water-fall related fatality in Western North Carolina this year, which has become one of the deadliest on record. John Shaffer, 42, of Charleston, South Carolina, was swept over Rainbow Falls on June 23 as he attempted to save his dog. On Feb 26. Jimmy Paul Schmidt Jr., a 37-year-old Georgia man, fell to his death at Catawba Falls in McDowell County on Feb. 26. On May 20, Thomas McCardle Jr., 26, drowned at Elk River Falls in the Avery County area of Pisgah National Forest. Daniel Melchor Arroyo, 25, of South Carolina, died at Upper Creek Falls, on June 2 and Nagarjuna Gogineni, 32, of Charlotte, died on July 1 after jumping from rocks at Elk River Falls.