Elk Falls Drowning Victim Identified, Search Temporarily Suspended Due To More Heavy Rains Forecasted (2018-05-25 20:14:24)

The man who drowned last Sunday at Elk River Falls has been identified. Avery County Sheriff Kevin Frye released a statement Friday afternoon.

The following is the full content of Sheriff Frye's press release:

Although the search for 26 year old, Thomas Edward McCardle Jr of Martins Ferry, Ohio has been temporarily suspended due to high water and incoming weather, the search will continue as soon as weather and conditions permit. Thomas McCardle Jr. had been in the area for a wedding and went by Elk River Falls in Avery County, an area he had previously visited. McCardle is believed to have acidently slid off a rock into the water at the bottom of Elk River Falls, on
Sunday, May 20th and got caught and drug under by very strong currents due to the previous very heavy rain.

A heroic effort by a group of young people was unsuccessful but when ASU student Kristin McDaniel saw McCardle go into the water and she immediately jumped in to try to rescue him along with Gary Kennedy of Lexington, NC, Maddison McNeill also of ASU, Matthew Glynn of Boone, Michael Austin Tysinger of Lexington, NC. Kristin McDaniel was almost taken under by the current in her attempt to hold onto McCardle but her friends formed a human chain in attempt for the rescue and were able to get her to safety but not McCardle. 

Thomas McCardle Jr.’s mother and father Thomas and Barbara McCardle also of Martins Ferry, Ohio arrived on Monday morning. Barbara stated “Tom and I would like to thank everyone who has worked to recover our son and helped us deal with this tragic accident especially Larry Cuthbertson and Josh Henson of Linville/Central Rescue, Frank Catalano, Danny Phillips, Lee Buchanan and Sheriff Kevin Frye of the Avery County Sheriff’s Office for making this difficult time as easy as possible. They have assured us they will not quit until our son is recovered no matter how long it takes for the water to recede enough to resume  operations. We also want to personally thank that group of young people who risked their lives to try to save our son.”

In addition to the aforementioned Linville/Central Rescue Squad, Avery Sheriff’s Office and  Avery County Emergency Management other agencies which greatly assisted in the rescue efforts were; Elk Park Fire Department, Frank Fire Department, Newland Fire Department, Sherrills Ford Fire and Rescue, Henderson County Rescue, Boone Fire Department, Blowing Rock Fire Department, Watauga Rescue, Parkway Fire and Rescue, Bakersville Fire Department, Asheville Fire Department, Wings Air Rescue, the Red Cross, Avery Ladder Truck company, Linville Fire Department, Banner Elk Fire Department and the US Forest Service. All of these departments dedicated people to assist in the recovery and risked their lives in trying to resolve the situation.

Thomas and Barbara McCardle would also like for people to make every effort possible by notifying the US Forest Service and US Congress to help warn others of the danger of Elk River Falls. “We do not think the general public understands how dangerous this particular piece of water is, especially after heavy rains” said Thomas McCardle. The McCardles along with many other families of people who have died at the Elk River Falls want some action taken to reduce the danger and fatalities which occur at this location. Avery County Sheriff along with others, made a video with the US Forest Service to warn people of the dangers, but most people do not look at the video until a tragedy occurs. The video can be accessed at and clicking the link marked “Elk River Falls.”


Statement from National Forests in North Carolina:

Officials with the Pisgah National Forest ask visitors to avoid the Elk River Falls area on the Appalachian Ranger District until further notice.

Since Sunday, May 20, emergency responders have been working to recover the body of a man who drowned in the water at the base of the falls. Recovery efforts have been suspended due to dangerous conditions created by high water levels. Search and rescue teams will resume operations in an effort to find the victim when conditions improve.

Numerous fatalities and serious injuries occur at waterfalls each year. Waterfalls are exciting and rivers are a great place to cool off on a hot day, but both pose risks to unprepared visitors. Be aware of the hazards so you can stay safe.

  • Heed posted warning signs indicating danger and stay on established trails. 
  • Never climb on or around waterfalls and never play in the water above a waterfall. Rocks can be slippery and it's easy to lose your balance especially with bare feet.  Currents near waterfalls can be extremely swift even in areas further upstream.
  • Never jump off waterfalls or dive into plunge pools at the base of waterfalls. Rocks and logs can be hidden beneath the surface of the water. Often waterfall pools have swirling water or currents that can drag and keep even strong swimmers underwater. Swimming or wading near waterfall plunge pools is dangerous. 
  • Even if you have seen other people enjoy playing around waterfalls, be aware that they have been lucky to escape unharmed. Waterfalls are constantly changing with varying water flows and erosion of the rocks around them. The current from one place to the next may be faster than you anticipate and the arrangement of rocks or other debris such as logs in the plunge pool is ever changing.

The best way to enjoy a waterfall is from a safe distance.