By Rex Hodge
JACKSON COUNTY, North Carolina (WLOS) — A young girl lost her life at Whitewater Falls in Nantahala National Forest over the weekend. Officials are emphasizing safety measures to keep in mind as more visitors are expected with warmer weather arriving.
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office says late Sunday afternoon, April 10, reports came in about a three-year-old girl who had been visiting the falls with her family.
The sheriff’s office says the young girl, identified as Nevaeh Jade Newswanger, was swept from the top of the falls, the current taking her over the edge.
First responders spotted her body before nightfall Sunday and her body was recovered not long after midnight.
Cathy Dowd with the U.S. Forest Service doesn’t have all the details in this case, but says, “The rocks are obviously very slippery, and people can lose their balance and easily be carried by the current over the top of the falls.”
Whitewater Falls on the North and South Carolina line is a stunning sight, but Dowd’s advice is not to play in the river at the top of the falls. The current can be deceptively strong.
She recommends viewing the falls from a safe distance.
“So, you have a beautiful view of it, you don’t get to play in the water in those places but there are plenty of other places where the water is safe to play. so go to those spots,” Dowd says.
However, these are just strong recommendations.
“Any restrictions that we would put on here would have to be enforced,” Dowd says. “So we’d really have to have somebody here 24 hours. The prevention measure is really up to the folks who are visiting to stay out of the water.”
Other safety tips include:
Visiting with family or groups Wearing toe-covered shoes with good traction Fully charging cell phones Never jumping from waterfalls Heeding posted signs, although sometimes they’re swiped “Don’t assume that if you don’t see a sign, it’s a safe place to visit,” Dowd says.
“It’s tragic,” says Grant Siegfried, visiting from Florida.
Visitors New 13 met on Monday at the falls were saddened by the news.
“Your children and your grandchildren are your greatest treasures,” says Pam Goergen, visiting from Texas.
“Just be as careful as you can to try to have a safe and happy visit,” says Dowd. “It is a really unfortunate event, and our hearts go out to the family and friends.”
The Newswanger family is from Denver, Pennsylvania, but had been living in Oconee County, South Carolina while working here.
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office offers their condolences to the Newswanger family.
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