‘Hero’ dies saving two others from river near Madison
MADISON, N.C. — A 20-year-old man who died Thursday after jumping into the Dan River to save two swimmers who were washed over a dam is being remembered as a hero by those who knew him.
Steven Sizemore, of Sandy Ridge, was swimming with a group of 6-8 people in the Dan River near Lindsay Bridge Road near Madison around 8 p.m.
Two people from the group — an 18-year-old and her 20-year-old boyfriend — were washed 40 feet over the dam after struggling to battle its current.
Sizemore jumped in the river attempted to push the struggling swimmers away from the hydraulics.
“They were caught in this and he went in and somehow was able to free them,” said Rusty Gray, chief of the Madison Rescue Squad.
All three were eventually washed 100 yards downstream. Sizemore helped the struggling swimmers to shore, but then himself went underwater.
“Who knows if the other two would have made it out without him. It very well could have been even more tragic,” Gray said.
When first responders arrived at the scene around 8 p.m., they attempted to perform CPR. Sizemore was then transported to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Officials believe the 20-year-old’s injuries were primarily caused by hydraulics at the dam.
“Rescuers call this a killing machine and that’s what it does,” Gray said.
Sizemore’s sister said she wasn’t surprised to hear that her brother jumped into the river to help his two friends.
“He’s the hero,” Nicole Sizemore said. “I was like ‘That’s my brother…’ That sounds like something he would do… He’s real kindhearted.”
Despite the tragedy, Nicole said she is proud of her brother in the fact that he died a hero.
“Just remember what he (did) and that he saved two people’s lives and gave his,” Nicole said.
The 18-year-old woman was taken to Morehead Hospital with minor injuries, while the 20-year-old declined treatment at the scene. Both are now recovering at home.
The three were part of a group made up of juveniles, teenagers and people in their early 20s. Gray said there was one supervising adult parent at the scene, but none of them were wearing life jackets.
Gray said the group thought the area near the dam looked “calm” and safe for swimming, but in reality the currents were strong underneath the water.
While signs are posted near the dam that read “no swimming or fishing,” Gray said people often misuse the area.
Gray said he’s seen at least six drownings in the area including Sizemore’s.
“It’s an ongoing problem,” Gray said.