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North Carolina man drowns near Wilbur Dam on Sunday

John Thompson • May 14, 2018 at 8:51 PM

ELIZABETHTON — A North Carolina man drowned in the Watauga River just below Wilbur Dam on Sunday afternoon, authorities said.

Hunter Brandon Sadle, 52, of Fletcher, N.C., was pulled from the river by the Carter County Rescue Squad and rushed to the emergency room of Sycamore Shoals Hospital, but was pronounced dead.

His wife, Robyn Sadle, 51, was rescued from rocks in the middle of the river by a Rescue Squad boat. She was also transported to Sycamore Shoals Hospital by ambulance.

According to the Carter County Sheriff's Department, four people had gone into the river, but experienced difficulties getting out. A father and son from Sullivan County, James E. Smith, 54, and Zach Smith, 20, were able to get out of the water by themselves.

The 911 call went out at 3:15, ordering emergency personnel to respond to the Wilbur Dam boat ramp, just downstream from the dam. Rescuers said the dam was not generating at the time of the drowning, but the current is still strong in the area. The water is extremely cold.

Rescuers were quickly able to rescue the woman from the rocks, but were told a man had gone under and had not been seen since. The rescue boat spotted the man's body. Rescue diver Craig Shaw aided in recovering the body.

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