Indiana family sues after tubing incident killed five family members in North Carolina

A family from northwest Indiana has filed a lawsuit after five loved ones were killed in a tubing accident on a North Carolina river.

From up-stream, the Dan River in Eden, North Carolina looks like a peaceful spot for a tubing trip. The Villano family was there visiting relatives in June when their attorney says they went for a fun day on the river. However, attorney Kenneth Allen says the family didn't know the danger of the low-head dam on the river.

"Once you get sucked into that, it’s a miracle for you to get out," Allen said.

Nine members of the Villano family went tubing. Five of them including a pregnant woman drowned.


Irene Villano, who survived, says since then it's been "difficult, heartbreaking and miserable to not have them around."

Irene was one of four who survived, waiting in the churning water 11 hours for a rescue.

"By the grace of God, I found a little hole I was able to stick my pinkie finger into and that's what kind of held us there," she said.

The Villano family is now suing Duke Energy, which owns and operates that dam.

"This terrible, deadly, drowning machine situation has to be changed and I think they've been chosen to change it," Allen said.

Allen and his clients are calling for changes with the hundreds of other low-head dams on America's rivers. They estimate there are 200 to 300 low-head dams in Illinois, including seven in Cook County, and about 150 in Indiana. They want to see them made safer or eliminated.