Lt. Sean Swain, a spokesman for the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, told the Fayetteville Observer that deputies could see the man’s body through a trailer window but couldn’t retrieve the body because of the swift water surrounding the trailer.
The location of the trailer was just outside Fayetteville, off Tabor Church Road near the Cape Fear River.
A member of a search and rescue team performing well-being checks in the evacuated area along the river spotted the body late Tuesday, Sept. 18 and alerted the sheriff’s office.
Members from the office, EMS, and a FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Task Force Team from New York were among those who were investigating the death.
Ignored Evacuation Order
The death toll from Florence increased to at least 37 on Sept. 19. At least 17 of the deaths happened in North Carolina.
Cape Fear Hits Historic Heights
An estimated 2,800 households in the mandatory evacuation zone near the Cape Fear River had been ordered to evacuate, and those who ignored the order were told they could be on their own.
As forecast, the river swelled to its highest level in 73 years after five days of rain from Florence, reported the Observer. The river was expected to crest before dawn on Sept. 19, at 61.6 feet—3.5 feet higher than the level from Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
Fayetteville Police Chief Gina Hawkins told the paper that despite the mandatory evacuation, officers cannot force people to leave their homes. “That’s a risk that they are taking with their own lives,” said Hawkins.
Bob Baker, one of those who stayed put, and who lives in Kinwood by Methodist University, said that he and his neighbors studied the topography and concluded many of their homes would be safe. They have largely been correct.
Baker said he and others cleaned out stormwater drains and had sandbags on hand if needed. He criticized city officials, believing they didn’t take into account the topography.