NC firefighter, two divers experienced underwater emergency, officials say

Family and officials hold a news conference on firefighter Bradley Long's death. (MARK DAVNEPORT | WBTV)

SHERRILLS FORD, NC (WBTV) – Officials spoke publicly Tuesday on 28-year-old Captain Bradley Long, the firefighter who died during a search for a missing swimmer on Lake Norman Monday.

lake rescue photos

Long and two other firefighters went into the water to search for a 29-year-old man who jumped off a boat Sunday and didn’t make it out of the water.

UPDATE: Officials: Fallen NC firefighter drowned during June search

Officials said Long and the firefighters experienced an “emergency” in 35 to 75 feet of water, close to where the swimmer went missing. Two divers came out of the water, Long did not, officials said.

“A rescue effort was implemented and when they reached him he had already succumb to his injuries,” Catawba County Emergency Management said. The two other firefighters went to Regional Medical Center with minor injuries.

The press conference started at 9 a.m. at Terrell Baptist Church in Sherrills Ford. Long’s family accompanied the officials, who said Long died doing what he loved.

Gov. McCrory released a statement Tuesday afternoon: “As a devoted full-time firefighter in Newton, Captain Bradley Long died doing what he loved. His death is a reminder of the risks our state’s fire and rescue personnel put themselves in every day. My sympathy and condolences go out to Captain Long’s family.”

The family released the following statement Tuesday morning:

“Our family would like to thank everyone from ALL of the fire and emergency services in Sherrills Ford and Catawba County, all regional agencies who have helped, and friends, family and community members for their support during this difficult and tragic time. We ask for prayers and peace as we take time to grieve and heal today and in the days to come. He passed doing what he loved to do and was passionate about.”

RELATED: NC rescue diver and missing swimmer found dead in lake

Long worked at the Newton Fire Department and was a volunteer with Sherrills Ford-Terrell Fire and Rescue, where he had been a member for 12 years. He was working with Sherrills Ford during the search.

Rescue crews had been searching the lake since Sunday afternoon for the missing 29-year-old swimmer. Officials said he jumped off a boat with two other people. The boat wasn’t anchored and started to float away. The three tried to swim and catch up with the boat, but the man wasn’t able to make it back to the boat.

lake rescue photos

After suspending the search around 9:30 Sunday evening due to darkness, crews started searching again 8:30 Monday morning.

The names of the divers injured have not been released, but officials said they are also from Sherrills Ford-Terrell Fire and Rescue. Officials said they were responsive when they were taken to the hospital.

The search for the missing man was suspended once Long went missing in the water. Officials confirmed the body of the missing man was recovered along with Long’s.

The Newton Fire Department released the following statement Tuesday:

The city of Newton and the Newton Fire Department offer their deepest condolences to the family of Capt. Bradley Long, who died during a search for a missing swimmer on Lake Norman on Monday, June 6. Long joined the Newton Fire Department as a part-time firefighter in June 2007. He became a full-time fire engineer in May 2011 and was promoted to fire captain in August 2015. Long began his firefighting career as a junior firefighter at Sherrills Ford-Terrell Fire and Rescue when he was 14 years old, and he continued to volunteer there. Long was a highly-trained and dedicated member of the Newton Fire Department. He was named Fireman of the Year by the Newton Elks Lodge this year.
Newton Fire Chief Kevin Yoder said they are mourning the loss of Bradley. “He has been a valuable part of our department, and his impact will be remembered for many years to come by the Newton Fire Department family,” Yoder said.

Family of the missing man said they are thinking about Long’s family as well as their own, stating “the family considers that man a hero.”

The Iredell County Sheriff’s Office is investigating Long’s death. Officials say the investigation will be “both lengthy and thorough in nature.”


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