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Man is second to drown near Whitewater Center since June

The Whitewater Center has a bulletin board with safety information for guests to accompany an instructional briefing before they can kayak or paddle board on the Catawba River.
The Whitewater Center has a bulletin board with safety information for guests to accompany an instructional briefing before they can kayak or paddle board on the Catawba River. U.S. National Whitewater Center

Rescue teams recovered the body of a missing swimmer Sunday afternoon from the Catawba River between the National Whitewater Center and Mount Holly.

Officials said Terry Wayne Stephens Jr., 20, had been at a party nearby and entered the water with a friend when he drowned, WBTV, the Observer’s news partner, reported.

Stephens’ death marks the second drowning in the stretch of the river near the center in the last month.

Kayakers from the Whitewater Center tried to rescue Stephens unsuccessfully before help arrived around 5:30 p.m.

The Charlotte Fire Department responded to the Catawba River near Kayak Island with dive teams just before 6:30 p.m. Around 7, Medic tweeted that rescue crews had gone into recovery mode and said they were looking for a person who drowned.

WBTV reported that the Stephens’ body was recovered from the river about 30 feet from where he had entered the water between the Whitewater Center and Mount Holly.

Officials were told he was a good swimmer, according to WBTV.

Stephens was not connected to the Whitewater Center, said the center’s brand manager Eric Osterhus.

A kayaker drowned on June 20 in the same stretch of the Catawba River, near the Interstate 85 bridge. Officials had not released the name of the victim, who was found after over two hours of searching.

Kayakers and paddle boarders from the Whitewater Center use the stretch of river between N.C. 27 and I-85 where the man drowned Sunday. Osterhus said guests are warned about safety risks but are not supervised by staff on the river.

“We have a pretty thorough instructional briefing,” Osterhus said. Guests wear personal flotation devices while on the water.

A board with safety information at the center advises guests against risks like strong currents and adverse weather, Oberhus said. Information on the board reminds visitors that they “accept any and all risks associated with paddling on an open and public waterway.”

Bacon: 704-358-5725; Twitter: @erindbacon

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