Accident Database

Report ID# 3307

  • Caught in Low Head Dam Hydraulic
  • PFD Fell Off
  • Does not Apply
  • Other

Accident Description

drowning of 5 year old boy at low head

Five-year-old falls in Dan River

Five-year-old falls in Dan River

Media General News Service photo

An unidentified man struggles to find a 5-year-old boy after a boat flipped in the Dan River on Monday afternoon. Dive teams spent all afternoon looking for the child. They’ll begin searching again at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Media General News Service

Buzz up!

DANVILLE - About 40 people watched from the banks of the Dan River as a dam’s falling water pounded the hull of a flipped boat, trapping 5-year-old Kolton Brim Karnes, underwater.

The strong current ripped off the boy’s life jacket, a police spokesman said. The boy lived on Rodgers Road in Sutherlin, according to a news release from the Danville Police Department.

Divers searched the river for the missing boy — and saved some of their own when their rescue boat flipped in the churning water Monday afternoon. The dive teams called off the search about 6:45 p.m. Capt. Matt Carter, a spokesman for the Danville Police Department, said they’d be back on the water at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

At the end of Monday’s search, rescuers handed fishing poles and clothing to the boy’s sobbing family, who waited by the riverbank as the divers came onshore.

Emergency calls came about 1:20 p.m. as a group of men waded through the Dan River toward the boat.

Roger Nibblett saw the boat flip as he walked by the river. He dove in, swam to the boat, found the boy and flipped him to his shoulder. But the current sucked him and the boy under. Nibblett surfaced and couldn’t find the 5-year-old. “It’s a hurting feeling,” Nibblett said. “We tried. I tried everything in my power.”

As Nibblett and others in the water looked for the child, Michael Meadows raced toward the dam in his boat. Minutes earlier he fished with his son farther down the river, Meadows said. As he eased his boat toward the dam, angler Anthony Peters screamed from the riverbank that the child was under the flipped boat.

Meadows tossed a line and tried to hook the flipped boat to tow it out. He also scanned the water for the boy but couldn’t find him.

At the riverbank, Carter and Peters watched.“This is about as helpless I’ve felt in a long time,” Carter said into a cell phone. “You hope and pray there’s a pocket under that boat.” Police ordered Meadows and the others out of the water as Danville Life Saving Crew dive boats flew up the river.

Divers prodded the water with oars as their boat waited nearby. About 2:45 p.m., a dive boat snuck to close to the dam, and the falling water grabbed the boat’s right side, pitching the rescuers into the river.

The second rescue boat throttled to its capsized sister. Rescuers pulled two men from the water and dropped them at the riverbank. Three other men clung to the flipped boat’s hull, waiting for the dive boat to return. Eventually, they were pulled from the water. One received minor injuries.

Peters, the witness from the riverbank, said the father caught a yard-long catfish before the accident. The man went back to the riverbank, picked up his son, and returned to the river. “I’m horrified,” Peters said. “It’s a scary thing to see somebody go down, watching a kid drown and you can’t save them.”

• Tomsic is a staff writer for the Danville Register & Bee.


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