MADISON, N.C. -- Rescuers say a dam on the Dan River is so dangerous that they call it a "drowning machine."

Members of the Madison-Rockingham Rescue Squad want to remind the public to stay clear of the low-head dam in Madison, after an 18-year-old nearly drowned Wednesday evening.

The young man was swimming near the dam and got pulled under water by the current. He was able to escape by holding onto a rock and pulling himself out.

"It (the dam) looks so innocent, but it turns out to be so deadly," said Assistant Chief Steve Boles with the Madison-Rockingham Rescue Squad.

Low-head dams can be dangerous because when water spills over the top of the dam, it creates a recirculating current underneath the water.

Swimmers can get trapped in the current if they get too close and the current will keep pushing them underwater, often causing people to drown.

According to Boles, in recent years, 5 to 6 swimmers have drowned near the low-head dam in Madison.

There are signs posted near the river warning of the dangers. However, Boles wants to go a step further. he'd like to see the dam replaced.

"This was built to supply drinking water for the local municipality," Boles said. "Today, I'm sure there are different technologies to build structures on the river without having to do a low-head dam."

In the meantime, Boles just wants to get the word out to swimmers and boaters - warning them to stay away from the dam.