Coworker helps save Whitewater Center employee after Catawba River incident

by: Linzi Sheldon Updated:

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MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. —

An employee with the U.S. National Whitewater Center is in the hospital, and authorities are still unsure how he almost drowned in about 4 feet of water.

The center has not released the man's name. He had just finished with his day's work at the center and was walking up a dock on the Catawba River when his keys fell in the water and he jumped in after them.

Whitewater Center Executive Director Jeff Wise said he came up several times and even put on a diving mask to try to find them, but then suddenly disappeared underwater.

Wise said an employee who was with him, and watching from the dock, jumped in after him and called for more help from other staff members.

They were able to pull him out of the water and administered CPR. Wise said the employee had no obvious injuries, including scrapes or bruises, when staff members pulled him out.

Wise said late Thursday afternoon that doctors have put the employee in a state of "therapeutic hypothermia," which brings down his body temperature and prevents tissue damage.

He said that on Friday doctors are expected to slowly increase the man's temperature, which will then give them a better idea of his condition.

He has worked at the Whitewater Center for about six weeks, running activities in that area with canoes and flat-water kayaks, and is described as a strong swimmer. Wise said the employee has no health issues they were aware of.