Rockingham County, N.C. – On Wednesday, June 16, 2021, a group of nine individuals set out to float down the Dan River in Eden on several inflatable tubes, a popular pastime in Rockingham County. Around nightfall, the nine individuals, whose tubes were all connected together, went over a dam located on the Dan River near the Duke Energy Power Plant in Eden. There are warning signs posted on the river near the dam.
The next day, at around 3:30 p.m., an astute employee of the Duke Energy Plant saw something that led him to believe there may be individuals in peril on the river and called 9-1-1.
Rockingham County first responders began a search of the area and rescued four (4) individuals that were clinging to the dam in the river. The four individuals were rescued and transported to a local area hospital for treatment.
After rescuing these individuals, emergency responders learned that there had been nine in the group that went over the dam and five (5) individuals were still missing. A multi-agency search and rescue effort, coordinated by Rockingham County Emergency Services Director Rodney Cates, then began. Numerous rescue boats were deployed to search the river. Soon thereafter, helicopters from the North Carolina Highway Patrol and AirLife out of Virginia joined the search.
Three (3) of the missing five (5) were located before nightfall. They were deceased. Two remained missing. After nightfall, the search efforts were suspended for safety reasons.
The search resumed at 6 a.m. this morning. Rescue boats were again deployed and helicopters arrived to aid in the search. Rescue teams from Rockingham County North Carolina met with rescue teams from neighboring Pittsylvania County, Virginia (which the Dan River also runs though) at the state line on the river earlier this afternoon.
The four (4) individuals that were rescued are as follows:
Rueben Villino, 35, of Eden, N.C.
Eric Villino, 14, of Eden, N.C. (Rueben’s son)
Irene Villino, 18, of Eden, N.C. (Rueben’s daughter)
Karlos Villino, 14, of LaPorte, Indiana
The three (2) individuals that were recovered from the river deceased are as follows:
Bridish Crawford, 27, of Eden, N.C. (has children in common with Rueben Villino)
Antonio Ramon, 30, of Eden, N.C.
Sophie Wilson, 14, of LaPorte, Indiana
Teresa Villino, 30, of Eden, N.C.
(sister to Rueben Villino, has children in common with Antonio Ramon, Aunt to Sophie Wilson)
Isiah Crawford, 7, of Eden, N.C.
(son of Bridish Crawford)