AP NEWS

Man’s death a reminder of power of Tar River

May 18, 2019

Crews pulled the body of Octavious Yarborough, 40, from the Tar River around 3 p.m. Friday. His brother, Eddie Yarborough, said he was swimming with friends when he went under.

A report that someone had drowned in the river near the Franklin County Courthouse came in around 11 a.m., and crews massed on the shoreline and in boats to search for the man.

After about an hour and a half, the Louisburg chief of police said his officers were working on “a recovery operation.”

Family members gathered at River Bend Park, and Eddie Yarborough was present when his brother’s body was recovered.

“It was just a very numb moment,” Eddie Yarborough said.

He said his brother, nicknamed “Smokey,” enjoyed the park for the grills, the shade and a view of the muddy river. But the park doesn’t have a designated swimming area.

Octavious Yarborough was a good swimmer, his brother said, adding that he never knew him to go swimming in the Tar River.

Relatives said he leaves behind a daughter and a couple of grandchildren.

“He was very sweet and funny. He was loved,” sister-in-law Angel Yarborough said.

Local resident Naomi Midkiff and her daughter, Hannah, said they understand the dangers of swimming in the Tar River.

“The currents, they can change, and you can’t really see under the water what they’re doing,” Naomi Midkiff said. “The muddy water especially, you can’t see what’s down there.”

“You can’t fight the current,” Hannah Midkiff said. “You can’t paddle your way out because you’ll get sucked down, and really, nobody can save you because they’ll end up in the same situation.”

The Midkiffs said they follow some pretty simple advice during the swimming season.

“Wear a life vest, especially if you’re at a lake or the ocean,” Naomi Midkiff said. “Bring a life vest. At least bring it with you.”

The Red Cross recommends three tips to make water safety a priority:

Use layers of protection in and around water.

Know the risks and take sensible precautions.

Ensure that the entire family learns how to swim.

“It’s really easy – it may not look it, but it’s really easy – to get swept up in those currents,” Hannah Midkiff said.