Forest Service emphasizes safety measures after 3-year-old child dies in waterfall incident

By Rex Hodge

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JACKSON COUNTY, NC (WLOS) – A young girl lost her life at Whitewater Falls in the Nantahala National Forest over the weekend. Officials stress safety measures to keep in mind as more visitors are expected with the arrival of warmer weather.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office said late Sunday afternoon, April 10, reports of a three-year-old girl who had visited the falls with her family had been reported.

The sheriff’s office says the girl, identified as Nevaeh Jade Newswanger, was swept from the top of the falls as the current swept her overboard.

First responders spotted her body before dark on Sunday and her body was found shortly after midnight.

Cathy Dowd of the US Forest Service doesn’t have full details in this case, but says, “The rocks are obviously very slippery, and people can lose their balance and be easily swept away by the current over the falls.”

Whitewater Falls on the North and South Carolina line is a stunning sight, but Dowd’s advice is not to play in the river at the top of the falls. The current can be deceptively strong.

She recommends viewing the falls from a safe distance.

“So you have a nice view on it, you can’t play in the water in those places, but there are a lot of other places where the water is safe to play, so go to those places,” says Dowd .

However, these are only strong recommendations.

“Any restrictions that we would impose here would have to be enforced,” Dowd says. “So we would really need to have someone here 24 hours a day. The precautionary measure is really up to visitors to stay out of the water.

Here are some other safety tips:

Visit with family or group Wear covered shoes with good traction Fully charge cell phones Never jump off waterfalls Obey posted signs, even if they are sometimes slipped “Don’t assume that if you don’t see any sign, it’s a safe place to visit,” says Dowd.

“It’s tragic,” said Grant Siegfried, from Florida.

New 13 visitors met at the falls on Monday were saddened by the news.

“Your children and grandchildren are your greatest treasures,” says Pam Goergen, from Texas.

“Be as careful as possible to try to have a safe and happy visit,” Dowd says. “It’s a truly unfortunate event, and our thoughts are with family and friends.”

The Newswanger family is originally from Denver, Pennsylvania, but lived in Oconee County, South Carolina while working here.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office sends its condolences to the Newswanger family.

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Susan W. Lloyd