Man drowns saving 2 children in river at Chimney Rock

Preston Johnston
Preston Johnston

CHIMNEY ROCK, NC (WSPA) – A 19-year-old drowned Friday near Lake Lure after saving two kids who had fallen in the water.

Rutherford County deputies says the man went under the water and did not resurface.

The man has been identified as Preston Johnston of Spindale. “I told him I loved him and take care of them boys and he said alright, I love you too. I ‘ll take care of the kids,” Richard Johnston said he told his son Preston’s that day.

Rescue crews responded to Rocky Broad River just before 6pm Friday.

The drowning happened near the Rocky Broad River at Chimney Rock.

Johnston and four kids decided to go to a rock in the middle of the river.

Deputies say two children started having problems in the river and Johnston jumped into the river to save them. Johnston was able to help at least one of the juveniles before going under the water and never resurfacing.

A dive team from the Henderson County Rescue Squad recovered his body around 8 p.m. Friday.

The Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office says none of the four children were injured and they were all returned to their families.

Preston’s family says he died a hero, helping those he cared about. That’s also how he lived his life.

“He was a very loving caring person. It’s made it easier knowing my son died a hero. So he’ll always be my hero,” Richard said.

“He loved helping people,” Linda Johnston, Preston’s aunt said. “If he had to do it all over again, knowing the outcome he would do it again, the same way.”

His family says the twins he saved are doing okay physically, but they’re grieving their very close friend.

“They were like brothers to him,” Richard added. “It is very hard on them right now because they know he died saving their life.”

There is a sign near the location on Rocky Broad River where Preston drowned that warns swimmers of dangerous waters. Preston’s family is encouraging others to stay out.

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