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3 dead, 2 still missing 24 hours since rafts went over dam near Duke Energy's Dan River Steam Station in Eden
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3 dead, 2 still missing 24 hours since rafts went over dam near Duke Energy's Dan River Steam Station in Eden

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EDEN — The bodies of three people were recovered late Thursday from the Dan River, where their raft went over a dam the night before.

Water rescue teams in two boats and air crews worked Thursday evening in a search for five missing rafters who traveled over the dam near Duke Energy's Dan River Steam Station here late Wednesday night, authorities said.

By 6 p.m., the State Highway Patrol had dispatched a helicopter equipped with forward-looking infrared cameras to help with the search through the night. The technology is designed to enhance night vision and detect heat sources in such searches.

Authorities confirmed about 9:30 p.m. that three bodies had been found and were believed to be those of some of the missing rafters. Two people remained missing late Thursday.

Earlier Thursday afternoon, emergency workers rescued four people who said they had traveled the Dan River as a group of nine with the five missing people on Wednesday. The group used three rafts for their trek, said Rockingham County Emergency Services Director Rodney Cates.

The four who were rescued, who were not wearing life jackets at the time they were found, were being treated at a local hospital Thursday night for injuries not considered life-threatening, Cates said.

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Workers at the Duke facility had alerted authorities around 3:30 p.m. on Thursday after they noticed the four people appeared to be stranded on the river near the dam. Cates declined to speculate on the ages of the rafters or whether they were intoxicated. 

"This incident actually occurred near dark last night,'' Cates said, explaining the four rescued rafters provided authorities with some details. "These people were floating the river, they go over the dam which is near the Duke Energy plant ... and we're still searching for five individuals," Cates said.

Sheriff Sam Page and Cates said Rockingham County water rescue teams worked to come the river Thursday with teams from Madison-Rockingham Rescue Squad, Eden Rescue Squad and Reidsville Rescue Squad. Meanwhile, other emergency workers searched from the air, covering 6 miles downstream from the dam and into Virginia in hopes of seeing the missing rafters. The Rockingham County Sheriff's Office also assisted in the operation. 

Cates said rescue teams would get out of the water at nightfall due to safety concerns, but would resume searching at daybreak on Friday.

He further encouraged water enthusiasts to take water safety seriously and wear life jackets without fail. 

Asked if he was optimistic about finding the five missing rafters, who had been missing about 24 hours, Cates said he remains hopeful they can be rescued.

No information was available about when or where the group began their Wednesday water trip, Cates said.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates at RockinghamNow.com

Contact Susie C. Spear at sspear@rockinghamnow.com, (336) 349-4331, ext. 6140 and follow @SpearSusie_RCN on Twitter.

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