A Catawba River fishing trip began Tuesday evening with Ignacio Xiong, 28, taking his friend’s photo by the water.
Zoua Chang, 30, of Claremont posed with an overflowing dam behind him near Lookout Shoals in Catawba County.
“It looked like a waterfall,” said Xiong, who lives in Conover. “It was really pretty.”
About 30 minutes later, when Chang walked away down the river banks, Xiong figured he was trying to find a better fishing spot. He never saw his friend again. Along with emergency crews and family members, Xiong took part in searches to find the missing man.
Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid said the search was called off Tuesday at midnight and resumed at 8 a.m. Wednesday.
Xiong said Chang – nicknamed “Ta” – suffered from seizures and may have fallen into the water.
Friends since high school, they’d fished in various locations and had been to the rocky spot near Lockout Shoals before. After Xiong got off work at the Food Lion in Conover on Tuesday, the men arrived at the river around 6:30 p.m.
“We love to go fishing and to be outside on the water,” Xiong said. “When we got there, he asked me to take his picture.”
Lots of other people were fishing there, and the river was flowing “kind of fast and strong,” Xiong said.
He and Chang didn’t have much luck catching fish.
Xiong noticed Chang moving farther down the river and by 7 p.m. had lost sight of him. Xiong didn’t worry until it started getting dark and people began leaving.
He walked the river banks and called Chang’s name, but got no answer. Around 9 p.m., Xiong said, he called 911.
Describing Chang as friendly, quiet and “real nice,” Xiong said the last time they spoke was when he snapped the photo – by a river in the outdoors they loved.
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