North Carolina

North Carolina man dies saving children from drowning in river

Friends and relatives on Monday were remembering the heroic actions of a young man who drowned in a North Carolina river after saving two boys who had fallen into the water.

Preston Johnston, 19, was swimming in the Rocky Broad River in Rutherford County Friday with family friends who ranged in age from 10 to 12, WSPA reported.

Johnston and the kids reportedly chose to swim out to a rock in the middle of the river, but two 12-year-old twin brothers soon had trouble staying afloat in the strong current.

Rescuers said Johnston jumped in the water to pull them to safety. Both of the younger boys made it out alive -- but Johnston never resurfaced. The fight to save the kids may have worn him out, WLOS reported.

"Right now that's the only thing helping me hold on... is knowing that he saved their lives," Johnston’s father, Richard, reacted.

"Preston loved these kids," his mother, Tammy Wellman, told WLOS.

Richard Johnston said rescue crews finally found his son's body around 8 p.m., nearly two hours after the search began. The young man's body was wedged underneath the rock.

His father said the fast current and muddy water hindered their efforts.

The two younger boys had grown up with Preston Johnston in the same neighborhood in Spindale, his father added.

The Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office said none of the other children swimming with Johnston was injured.

A burial service was scheduled for Thursday morning.

Spindale is about 60 miles northwest of Charlotte.

Click for more from WSPA-TV.