Survivors of Dan River tubing accident in NC Speak out

Family in tubing accident on Dan River speaks out (Photo: WFMY)

EDEN, NC (WWAY) –The four survivors of the Dan River tubing accident are holding tight to one another once again and sharing their story.

“I said we have to fight and we have to stay strong and not only for us but for the rest of our family,” Irene Villano said.

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Irene Villano, 18, recalled in heartbreaking detail what happened to her family, the 9 of them, on the river Wednesday afternoon. The group did not realize they were going over a dam. Her uncle went first.

“That’s when he went down and I don’t remember hearing… I don’t remember hearing him and then double thought I saw the rest of my family and they were all with him my mom and my brother and my cousins and my dad everybody,” Villano said.

Villano said she hung back at first holding onto a tree, but then, decided to join her family. When she went over, Villano said she saw all of her family’s stuff, but her loved ones were out of sight.

“I finally looked over and it was my dad… and he was like help me help me get mom,” Villano said. “We were trying but we couldn’t do anything and it was already too late. I remember I looked over and I just seen my dad and my brother and my cousin and I was so happy to see them… I thought I was alone I thought I was by myself.”

As the water swirled, she made her way over to a wall to hang on.

“There is a little hole in the wall probably about this big… Big enough for me to stick my pinky through and I held onto that the whole entire time the whole entire time… And it was all of us all of us were together,” Villano said.

Villano said the sun went down she started sending up prayers to God.

“I said I hope you allow us to see another day… And sunlight. And I remember after that my brother looked over and he was like the sun is coming out the sun is coming up,” Villano said.

She called out and kept calling for help.

“And then I screamed help for the last time… And then a few moments after that all of them started yelling and I remember I looked over and there was a truck,” Villano said.

The four were rescued and pulled from the river and taken to the hospital as search teams began to look for the others.

“These four our heroes. They kept everyone up. I thank my sister who is no longer here who told her daughter the power of prayer. As she used that to keep them all alive.”

On Thursday, officials said they found the bodies of three people. On Sunday, rescuers located 7-year-old Isiah Crawford’s body. Crews then searched closely for Teresa Villano who is still missing. Her family is still hoping for answers.

“We are just asking For prayers for my sister. She was pregnant. Just prayers… That we find her,” Villano said. “And hope that we have a miracle that she is alive.

As they grieve and mourn their loved ones, this family hopes to set the record straight: that they would never purposely endanger one another this tragedy truly, an accident.

“We would never go out there at night time you know we had young kids with us a seven year old. My brother. We would never put them in harms way like that ever 845 and if we knew that dam was there none of us would’ve went down it ever,” Villano said.