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Woman who died in Lake Norman had consumed alcohol and didn’t know how to swim, authorities said

A woman who apparently drowned just a few feet from the end of a pier in Lake Norman on Tuesday afternoon had been drinking alcohol and didn’t know how to swim, Lincoln County sheriff’s Lt. Tim Johnson said Wednesday.

Elisabeth Anna Burford, 36, of Lincolnton, drowned in a cove near the 4600 block of Mitchell Lane, off Webbs Chapel Road in Denver, authorities said.

Burford was in the water with a friend, but the friend told investigators that he went into the house briefly. When he came out, Burford was missing.

The man called 911 about 4:15 p.m., setting off a search that involved the Denver, East Lincoln and Sherrills Ford fire departments, along with N.C. Wildlife Resources, Lincoln County EMS and the sheriff’s office.

The search ended about 6:40 p.m., when Burford’s body was found near the end of the pier.

Johnson said Burford had a pool noodle with her, but noodles “are meant to play around on. They are not a life vest.”

Authorities learned that Burford had been drinking alcohol at the lake on Tuesday, Johnson said.

Burford’s autopsy was scheduled for Wednesday at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem. The sheriff’s office hadn’t received the results by late Wednesday afternoon, Johnson said.

Johnson said it could take months, however, before the sheriff’s office receives a toxicology report from the N.C. Medical Examiner’s Office.

Lincoln County sheriff’s detectives, meanwhile, are going through “normal investigative procedures” and are conducting more interviews, sheriff’s spokesman Larry Seagle said Wednesday.

Marusak: 704-358-5067; Twitter: @jmarusak
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