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Rock Hill teacher dies after tubing accident near Easley

By Andrew Dys and Rachel Southmayd
adys@heraldonline.com rsouthmayd@heraldonline.com

Staff and parents at Rock Hill’s Richmond Drive Elementary School were “deeply saddened and hurting” after the drowning death of teacher Heather Dobbins over the weekend.

Dobbins, 37, died Saturday after a tubing accident on the Saluda River in Pickens County, S.C., near Easley. She had taught English as a second language at the school since 2000 and was beloved by students, parents and peers.

“Heather Dobbins touched thousands of lives, easily,” said Pat Maness, principal at Richmond Drive. “She was a fantastic teacher, as devoted and committed as anyone we have ever had here. She was just plain terrific, and we are all deeply saddened and hurting today.”

Maness met with staff at the school Monday and is in the process of notifying parents.

Dobbins was married but did not have children of her own, Maness said.

“Every child she had in class, she was like a surrogate parent,” Maness said. “She loved the students, nurtured them, and they loved her back.”

Dobbins was tubing with her husband, Steve, and two other people around 3:30 p.m. Saturday, said Kandy Kelley, Pickens County coroner. The four had rented equipment and were tubing near Easley on the river that serves as the boundary between Pickens and Greenville counties, Kelley said.

The autopsy Monday showed nothing surprising and was consistent with a drowning, Kelley said.

The river spot in most years is not known for tubing – it is the first drowning Pickens officials have investigated there, Kelley said – but this year’s heavy rains have meant a larger number of people tubing on the river. The water level is higher on the river than in past years, Kelley said.

Dobbins graduated from Clover High School in 1993 and from Winthrop University in 1997, according to Rebecca Partlow, Rock Hill school district’s executive director of personnel.

“The things about Heather that are remembered so fondly are her kindness, her generosity and how much she cared about her students, as well as her peers,” Partlow said.

Dys: 803-329-4065 Southmayd: 803-329-4072
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