Divers found the body of a teen in the Eno River Rock Quarry on Thursday close to where the 18-year-old was last seen after jumping from an embankment into the quarry on May 28.
Nicklaus Brown, a swimmer and recent graduate of Eno River Academy, was found by dive crews nearly two days after he was last seen by a witness jumping into the water, doing a flip, briefly resurfacing and then sinking.
“His mother has confirmed that he was a very strong swimmer — he was a lifeguard,” Orange County Sheriff’s Office Director of Public Information and Special Services Alicia Stemper said. “It seems the flip over-rotated and he landed awkwardly. The victims of these incidents are not just weak swimmers, not just people who may have made less responsible choices about drugs and alcohol. This happens to the most cautious, the most responsible, the most fit.”
Brown was a member of the Eno River Academy swim and baseball teams. He graduated from high school on May 21, and planned to attend the University of North Carolina Wilmington this fall.
“By all accounts, he was just a great kid,” Stemper said.
Brown’s body was recovered in 25-foot-deep water by Halifax County Divers after a search that took place over the course of two days.
A search team assembled from multiple support agencies across counties began looking for Brown at around 5:25 p.m. on May 28. Stemper said that the deep, murky contents of the quarry complicated the search process.
“Everyone was so hopeful we would find him, but a little nervous,” she said. “Unlike a land search, it’s impossible to mark where you’ve been in the water, plus there’s the depth and the incredibly poor visibility of the quarry.”
This depth and poor visibility faced by the trained divers in the search party are the same conditions faced by swimmers visiting the quarry — which is 60 feet deep at its center.
Regardless of swimming experience, it remains dangerous for swimmers of all levels. According to Jay Greenwood, the superintendent for the North Carolina State Parks’ Piedmont Region, injuries and deaths at the quarry often have less to due with swimming experience and strength and more to do with on-site injury.
“Tragedies and incidents like these are usually due to an injury received in the water or at the quarry,” Greenwood said. “It’s very difficult to recover in water that deep.”
The News and Observer reported on Thursday that there have been 16 medical calls to the quarry since May 1, 2018.
While N.C. State Parks can designate swim areas that rangers believe to be safe for swimmers, there is no way to ban or prevent swimmers from visiting areas that are designated as safe such as the Eno River Quarry.
“There’s no rule or regulation to keep people out of that quarry,” Greenwood said. “There are signs that say the quarry is dangerous all over the quarry and we always caution people to definitely not dive and certainly not swim there. It’s beautiful, but take your lunch or hike there — do not get in the water.”