La Porte family who lost 5 relatives in NC tubing accident files lawsuit against Duke Energy

LA PORTE, Ind. (WLS) -- A grieving family from northwest Indiana filed a lawsuit Thursday after five relatives drowned in a tubing accident on a North Carolina river in June.

"It's like you are with these people all the time and you are always around them and they are just not here anymore," said Irene Villano.

Villano, 18, described how she managed to survive the tubing accident near a low-head dam that claimed the lives of five of her relatives. Her family filed a lawsuit against the North Carolina energy company they say is responsible for the tragedy.

The relatives from La Porte, Indiana had traveled to North Carolina to visit family back in June. They were on the Dan River, near Eden, when the accident happened.

In their wrongful death lawsuit against Duke Energy Carolinas LLC, the family claims the electricity provider was negligent because they provided no warnings about a low-head dam.
Five members of the Villano family died, including Debbie Villano's daughter Teresa. The survivors were not rescued until the next day.

"I prayed every morning that she would be alive, but God took her," Debbie Villano said. "They should be held accountable. They should make it safe."

Hundreds of these types of dams exist in Indiana and Illinois, but there are efforts to remove the remaining ones from Cook and other counties following injuries and even death. The Villano family hopes their tragedy will not befall other families.

"It's important for us, and in this case, the people of North Carolina, to send a strong message to Duke Energy that it has to take steps to mitigate or eliminate these hazards or it will be held to account," said Kenneth Allen, attorney for the Villano family.

Full Statement from Duke Energy

Our hearts go out to those involved in the tragic accident on the Dan River. The safety of the public and our employees is our top priority, and we work closely with local communities, organizations and government agencies to promote safe and responsible recreational activities near our facilities. We will respond to the lawsuit in detail in a future legal filing.
Copyright © 2021 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.