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Search For Missing Man At Turtleback Falls

Tuesday at 8 a.m. rescue crews will be back at Turtleback Falls searching for a man now feared dead after he jumped into the water.

"A 36-year-old male was jumping off a rock and into the river across from Turtleback Falls," said Bobby Cooper, Lake Toxaway Fire Chief. "He came up twice, was seen in distress, and went back under, and was not seen again. Right now we have no signs of him coming back up. It's not looking good right now."

Cooper supervised rescue operations at the scene deep inside Gorges State Park. Cooper said the U.S. Forestry Service had the man's identity but were not yet releasing it. Tuesday crews will take in inflatable rafts and work to search beneath the water's surface for a body.

"We run a rope across the river that's tied to the boat so we can move the boat across the river and you can search the bottom with some long poles," said Cooper.

Nine agencies were involved in the search including Lake Toxaway Fire and Rescue, Rosman Fire, Little River Fire, North Transylvania Fire, Glenville, Cashiers Rescue, and Connestee Fire Rescue.  North Carolina Highway Patrol had a helicopter at the scene doing a visual search from the air and checking the river downstream. The river named Horse Pasture River, is up four feet from normal. Though it has been up to eight feet above normal several weeks ago. The current eyewitnesses told News 13, is very strong and the water raging.

"The rock he jumped off of is about 12-14 feet to the river," said Cooper.  "The river makes a 90 degree bend at the falls."

Tony Austin is a well known trail guide in Transylvania county. He said waterfalls are often more dangerous than other things in the woods.

"I feel badly for him and his family," said Austin.  "Hiking is a wonderful, peaceful thing to do in the woods, and this brings some hesitation to people and I hate that."

Because of the high water, Austin has been avoiding the area waterfalls in the last several weeks. He said he always cautions visitors to stay away from the waterfalls and not take chances at the top but view them from a distance,
In 2010 a woman slipped and fell at Rainbow Falls downstream from Turtleback Falls. That is the last reported fatality in the area related to a waterfall accident.

By Kimberly King
Follow Kim on Twitter @KimKingReports

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