By Clint Parker
Weaverville area – Details about the death of Sterlin Marquca Swinton, 28, of Northview Park Road in Weaverville, are coming to light along with efforts to recover his body. Swinton went missing while swimming in a part of Reems Creek near the French Broad River off of Goldview Road Tuesday evening, June 11.
According to French Broad Fire Chief Matthew Shelton, the call for help came in around 8 pm. “We got up there and had to hike into it [the falls] from the rock quarry,” said Shelton. He indicated that it was about a half a mile hike into the falls taking about 10 minutes to get to once rescuers were on the scene. “That’s all private property,” he added. While the quarry does not own the falls, Shelton described their property as bordering the creek on one side.
Shelton explained that Swinton had gone over the falls and had gotten “…hung up in the hydraulics of the pool.” He went on to say, “We had rescue swimmers in the water and it was so bad, that it was actually pulling them into the hydraulics.” Shelton said around midnight they finally called the search off until the next morning because “…it was too dangerous.” The chief said a net was set-up across Reems Creek below the falls and the pools in case the body was “pushed out” through the night with Buncombe County Sheriff’s deputies left to monitor the creek.
Recovery efforts started around 9 am the Wednesday morning. “[We] sent the [Asheville] city and Henderson County’s dive teams in. They started searching and they found him in the second falls pool,” he said which was around 11:30 am. Swinton’s body was taken by stokes basket back up the trail and then transported by ambulance. As the Tribune reported in an earlier article, the body was sent off to have an autopsy performed, but Shelton could not confirm that report. “Once we got him out of the water, that was all the sheriff’s department.”
Shelton said 46 people took part in the rescue and recovery operations including personnel from Weaverville Fire Department, Asheville Fire Department and dive team, Henderson County dive team and West Buncombe Fire Department along with sheriff’s office personnel.
According to a Buncombe County Sheriff’s incident report, at least three other people were at the scene when Swinton went under. Two females and another male. None were from the Weaverville area. Asked about any changes for trespassing that might be forthcoming, Aaron Sarver from the sheriff’s office did not answer the question.
Swinton is not the first person to die at the falls. According to Shelton, he believes the last person to die at the falls was about 20 years ago. He also said that since that death, there had been numerous calls for severe injuries at the falls. “We’ve had numerous people fall off the falls and had to fly them out of there,” he said.
Shelton stressed that the falls are surrounded by private property and are off-limits to the public. “It’s really off-limits to the public and is dangerous down in there. It takes us a good 10 to 15 minutes to get down in there [once they’re on the scene],” said Shelton. “It’s an operation [to mount a rescue].”