Jane Mull had just returned to her house on Lake Hickory Saturday when she heard screams for help coming from her backyard.
There, on a pontoon boat about 50 feet off the shore, a woman was yelling, Mull recalled.
Her husband, she screamed, was drowning.
“Those were the worst screams I had ever heard in my life,” Mull said Sunday. “I knew something was very wrong.”
Mull ran into her backyard with her phone and dialed 911. About 30 people from 11 different rescue agencies responded, but were not able to save the man.
State wildlife officials have not released his name. Wildlife officer Bud Levan said Sunday that he was waiting until all family members were notified.
Lake Hickory sits on the western edge of Hickory in Catawba County, about 60 miles northwest of Charlotte.
Officials know the man was fishing in the lake with family, but they aren't sure how he ended up in the water.
Some reports said he had taken off his vest and was heading for shore when another boat rocked his boat, causing him to fall in. But WCNC-TV, the Observer's news partner, talked to a witness who said the man jumped in to help his young son, who was wearing a life vest but struggling.
The man went into the water about 2:25 p.m., officials said. Rescuers from Catawba, Alexander and Caldwell counties found his body about 6 p.m.
This month marks the start of the summer swimming season, a time of occasional tragedy on area lakes.
Officials recommend swimming only in designated areas, staying with a buddy, and never drinking alcohol before swimming.