Body of Missing Ohio Man Recovered in Elk River Falls on Wednesday

Published Thursday, May 31, 2018 at 12:47 pm

By Tim Gardner

Avery County Sheriff Kevin Frye has confirmed that the body of a drowning victim was recovered from the Elk River Falls area near Elk Park on Wednesday, May 30.

According to Frye, the body was recovered from the waters by law enforcement and emergency personnel around noon yesterday. Frye said the body is believed to be that of 26-year-old Thomas McCardle Jr. of Ohio.

McCardle was visiting North Carolina and was in the river on Sunday, May 20, when, according to witnesses at the scene, he was pulled underwater by strong undertow near the base of the falls. An ongoing search has been underway for McCardle’s body since then.

According to a May 25 press release from Frye, the search for McCardle’s body was temporarily suspended at that time due to dangerous waters resulting from the extended period of rainfall. Frye said in a statement then: “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 accidently 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.”

Frye said the reasoning for McCardle’s appearance on the water’s surface when his body was found is believed to be due to the additional heavy rains that forced a strong enough current to dislodge the individual from a location underneath the water’s surface.

Thomas McCardle Jr.’s mother and father Thomas and Barbara McCardle also of Martins Ferry, Ohio arrived in Avery County on Monday morning, May 21. Barbara McCardle released a statement then that read: “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.”

Besides Linville/Central Rescue Squad, Avery Sheriff’s Office and Avery County Emergency Management, other agencies which greatly assisted in the rescue efforts included: 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 U.S. 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 action taken to reduce the danger and fatalities which occur at this location. The Avery County Sheriff Department, along with others, made a video with the U.S. 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 www.facebook.com/nfsnc/videos and clicking the link marked “Elk River Falls.”

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