Police: Great Falls girl, 11, dies after being pulled from creek

Great Falls police say a mother was teaching her daughter how to swim when her daughter disappeared under water.
Great Falls police say a mother was teaching her daughter how to swim when her daughter disappeared under water. WBTV

An 11-year-old Great Falls girl died in a Charlotte hospital Sunday, a day after she was pulled, blue and unconscious, from a creek off the Catawba River in Chester County, police said.

The girl, identified as Emily Jo Britt, was limp and “extremely blue” when rescue workers found her Saturday afternoon, submerged in the water of a creek near Chester Avenue in Great Falls, said Great Falls Police Chief Steven Rice. Rice said that area of the creek is known locally as the Sand Bar.

Rice said he was told by the family on Sunday afternoon that Emily, who was hospitalized at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, was taken off life support and died.

Chester County Coroner Terry Tinker said he did not have information about the case Sunday.

Rice said rescue workers performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation Saturday, as the girl was transported to Springs Memorial Hospital in Lancaster, and the girl was able to regain “a small pulse.” He said Emily was later transferred to Levine.

Rice said the girl was under water for about 12 minutes between the time of a 3:45 p.m. Saturday call to Chester County 911 and rescue workers’ arrival at the scene. He said rescue workers estimated she may have been under water for as long as 15 minutes.

He said the girl was with two adult women, including her mother, Erica Blackmon, who appeared to be camping in a tent that had been set up near the creek.

Rice said Blackmon told him she was trying to teach her daughter to swim when the two got separated in the water.

He said the girl went under the water. He said the other woman “ran to a nearby roadway and flagged down a passerby.”

Rice said the passerby called Chester County 911.

“When we got there, the juvenile was still under the water, so the fire department and rescue squad went into the water to try to retrieve her. One of the fireman did locate her and bring her to the surface,” Rice said.

He said she was found perhaps 20 feet from the shore.

He said the girl was limp and blue, and rescue workers brought her back to the shore and began doing CPR, which they continued all the way to the Lancaster hospital.

“They did get a pulse, but she had not come to by the time they left her at the ER in Lancaster,” Rice said. He said she was later transferred to Levine in Charlotte.

The father of the girl, identified by Rice as Roger Blackmon of Great Falls, was not at the scene at the time of the 911 call but showed up soon after, he said.

Rice said the water in the area of the creek is usually fairly low, with some exposed sand. He estimated most of the area might be waist-deep for an adult.

However, Rice said the creek area has “a couple of deep sections where the shelf falls out” and he said those areas would be deep enough for an adult to easily submerge.

Emergency responders included the Great Falls police and fire departments, the Great Falls Rescue Squad and Chester County EMS, he said.

Jennifer Becknell: 803-329-4077