BELMONT, N.C. - Three people safely made it to shore and another person drowned Monday morning after a boat reportedly sank before dawn on the Catawba River, authorities told Channel 9.
Rescue crews were called just after 4:30 a.m. to the Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park in Gaston County, just off Wilkinson Boulevard. When they arrived, they found three people in the water who were able to make it to shore alive.
Officials said the body of the fourth person was recovered around 1 p.m. after hours of searching the river.
"Just awful,” fisherman Charles Lackey said. ”I feel sorry for the victim and for the families."
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EMS officials said they received a call that a boat with four people on it was sinking. Just before 6:30 a.m., authorities told Channel 9 that one person drowned.
Dozens of emergency personnel and equipment from MEDIC, CFD, Belmont FD and Gaston County EMS were at the scene and Channel 9 could see rescuers circling a small, capsized aluminum boat.
(WATCH BELOW: Belmont PD update media on river rescue)
Sergeant Brad Pickert with the Belmont Police Department said a group of six people was camping on an island where they went fishing this weekend on the river, north of the Wilkinson Boulevard bridge, and were using the boat to ferry people back and forth to shore. During one of the trips, the small boat began taking on water and sank.
"For whatever reason, the front of it started taking on water and the boat went straight down from there," he said.
He said two men and a woman made it to shore and that a man drowned.
No names have been released.
Channel 9 crews could see several rescue boats in the water around the boat ramp. Onshore, we saw crews with a child who was wrapped in a towel. Authorities said the 4-year-old was with another woman on the island and the two of them were brought to shore by emergency crews.
They were not on the boat.
Eyewitness News spoke with a person who was on the boat. He said the boat flipped and he was one of three people rescued. He said his friend drowned.
The Loftin Riverfront Park is a popular area for boating, kayaking, and fishing. People who come to the park said it will not stop them from enjoying it, but it will stay in the back of their minds.
"I don't think it's going to deter anyone from coming out here," neighbor Sarah Knorr said. "I think it's going to make people more aware."
Belmont police said the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission will be investigating the incident.
One lane of Wilkinson Boulevard was temporarily closed in each direction on the bridge over the river.
Check back with wsoctv.com for updates on this story.
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