Gaston County officials warn of danger at South Fork River after 2 teen deaths

In the past two weeks, two teens have died while swimming in the South Dork Catawba River.

On June 14, first responders recovered the body of 14-year-old Ethan Britt. Just 10 days later, crews were back on the water to retrieve the body of 16-year-old Makenna Warlick

The river may look calm, but Gaston County officials say upstream near the High Shoals Dam, the terrain is rocky and slick, and the water is turbulent. 

With so many people planning to come here and cool off here this summer, the mayor of High Shoals is working to try and make things safer. 

According to Gaston County Emergency Management, Warlick slipped on a rock and fell into the river on Monday. She never resurfaced. 

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“It is hard and it's accented a little because we are a small community and everybody knows everybody, so it does strike home pretty hard,” High Shoals Mayor Dan Weekley said. 

He's concerned about safety issues along the river.

“The South Fork is a dangerous river just by the nature of it and we have no safety procedures in effect for the river at all, so you're at your own risk,” he said. 

Emergency officials say the area where Warlick and her friends were, known as ‘Sliding Rock’, is near private property. There are no trespassing signs posted, but plenty of visitors go there anyway. 

“You're kind of breaking the law to get there and you're endangering yourself if you're not familiar with the terrain, so it's kind of double jeopardy.”  

The mayor wants to meet with leaders of other towns along the South Fork River to talk about what can be done to try and keep people out of harm's way. 

“I think maybe we need to take a serious look at it. We want the public to enjoy the outdoors, but we want them to be safe. We don't want this to happen again and I hope it doesn't,” Weekley said.

Officials are warning everyone against going out on the river, but say if you don't have a lot of experience outdoors, you don't need to be there.