Rescue mission ends in tragedy

By Carrie C. Causey

MOUNTAIN ISLAND LAKE – Search and rescue teams recovered the body of a 21-year-old Aug. 1 after the man allegedly jumped off of the N.C. 16 bridge the night before with friends and disappeared.
Emergency crews were called to the scene around 7:30 p.m. July 31 after Jonathon Cureton jumped, resurfaced and then went under again, according to media reports. The teams, from Gaston and Mecklenburg counties, called off the search later that evening and resumed the following day. The body was recovered around 5 p.m.
The dive team and other crews also had to contend with the weather as they worked around rain and storms.
“Weather will put a damper on a search and recovery operation. If there is lightning in the area or inclement weather, you can’t search,” said Sgt. Mark Faulkenberry, leader of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department’s Lake Patrol Unit.
Faulkenberry sent his crews to the area to handle site security and keep the public out as teams searched.
This isn’t the fi rst time an incident like this has occurred, Faulkenberry said, citing several drownings from people jumping from the bridge over the last 10-15 years.
He warns that not only is the activity of jumping unsafe, it’s also illegal and had they been caught, they could have faced charges.
“When you are jumping from a structure, you can’t see underwater and you can’t see the pylons or how far out they go,” Faulkenberry said of the risk. “You don’t know if there is something underneath the water. Plus, if you are jumping from that height, you could hit it rough and get the breath knocked out of you and you panic and that leads to tragedy. I don’t know if that’s what happened in this case, but it’s one possibility.”
Faulkenberry said his patrol takes calls about people being seen jumping very seriously and would have stopped them if they’d been seen.
As is routine, the incident is still under investigation.
Cureton’s friends and family have taken to social media to express their sympathy, posting pictures and messages, some even paying tribute through tattoos.
“I am honored to call you my brother and my best friend,” said one post. “You passed on such positive character traits to the world and the people who knew you that your legacy will live on forever.”

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