ERWIN, N.C. — Officials Saturday identified a man who died after he had trouble swimming in the Cape Fear River on Friday in Harnett County. Erwin Police Chief Jonathan Johnson said a man in his 30s was swimming in the stretch of the river near Erwin on Friday afternoon.

The man began to struggle to swim and vanished in the river around 5:30 p.m., according to Johnson and Ricky Blackmon, Chief of Erwin Fire Rescue.

Reginald Donnell Ragston’s body was found Friday around 7:35 p.m. near the N.C. 217 bridge over the Cape Fear River, Blackmon and Harnett County Deputy Aaron Meredith said. Ragston, 32, was from Smithfield, Meredith said.

Reginald Donnell Ragston
Reginald Donnell Ragston with one of his children.
Megan Matthews

Johnson said the river is dangerous with many rocks and strong currents. He added it is not a safe place to swim. Blackmon said his crews average about three or four rescues a year in the stretch of the river near the bridge.

Several other agencies also helped during the incident, including Harnett County Emergency Management, Harnett County EMS, Dunn Emergency Services, Lillington Fire Department and Buies Creek Fire and Rescue.