Mom of drowned teen learned of search from news alert 11 min. after allowing son to go

ERWIN, N.C. -- The families of two Erwin High School teenagers are grieving the loss of their sons.

Donovan Sutton and Steven McNeill drowned Sunday evening in the Cape Fear River.


McNeill's mother said she gave her 16-year-old permission to hang out with his friends but 11 minutes later, she learned about the search and rescue efforts through a push notification.

"I said babe, I just seen a post on Facebook they said its ambulances, fire departments all at the river... Something is not right," said Tierra McNeill.

McNeill raced to the riverside to learn that her son, Steven and his best friend Donovan had drowned while trying to swim to a rope swing on the other side of the river.

"My son knew he couldn't swim, so why would he be out there," said McNeill.

Meanwhile, Donovan Sutton's father said his son loved to swim but wasn't experienced enough to be swimming in the Cape Fear River.

"He was a pool swimmer, not enough to be out there in the river," said Donald Sutton Jr.

The Harnett County Sheriff's Office said the teens were with two other friends who tried to save them but by the time rescuers arrived, it was too late. The two were pulled from the water at 8:30 p.m.

Family members said the boys were inseparable.

"Donovan came here every day," said McNeill. "There wasn't a day I didn't see his best friend. Now I have to deal with seeing neither one of them."

Authorities do not suspect foul play is suspected and are ruling this an accidental drowning.
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