Multiple agencies rescue swimmer in Beaufort - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Swimmer rescued from Beaufort River

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BEAUFORT, SC (WTOC) -

Due to a concentrated multi-agency Beaufort rescue, a 39-year-old North Carolina man was saved from drowning in the Beaufort River around midnight Thursday.

According to Beaufort Fire Chief Sammy Negron, the victim apparently entered the Beaufort River for a midnight swim near the Pigeon Point boat landing but may have misjudged the tide and current and quickly found himself in trouble.

Beaufort Fire Department, Lady's Island-St. Helena Fire Department with a jet ski, Beaufort County EMS, SC Department of Natural Resources, the Coast Guard helicopter out of Savannah, Beaufort police including an officer with his personal boat, and a good Samaritan at the Downtown Marina assisted with the rescue.

Investigators say the man and his family were visiting Beaufort and decided to enjoy a late night on the waterfront. The man decided to go swimming around midnight. When he found himself fighting the tide and current, his female companion, who did not have a cell phone, drover their car and reported the situation to a nearby Beaufort police officer.

Emergency responders could hear the victim in the water when they arrived to the area. According to Negron, requests were made for Marine Rescue, DNR, and the Coast Guard to launch their water and air-based rescue resources.

"We weren't sure where the victim was in the river, which was he was moving, or which side of the river would be closest to him," Negron said. "We needed everyone's help."

Around the same time, a 911 call came in from a resident at Marsh Harbor on Lady's Island, reporting a victim in the water. According to officers on the shoreline in downtown Beaufort, the victim was still alive and seemed to be moving with the current toward the Woods Memorial Bridge.

Rescuers finally spotted the man holding onto a concrete piling on the Lady's Island side of the swing bridge, according to Negron. The jet ski, DNR boat and a person boat belonging to a man at the Downtown Marina all went out to rescue the man.

When they reached him, he was too tired to put on the offered personal flotation device, but was able to hold onto it. According to Negron, the man lost his grip on the piling moment later and floated away. Fortunately, he was still holding onto the life jacket that was attached by rope to the rescuers.

The man was pulled into the SC Department of Natural Resources' boat as the Coast Guard helicopter arrived on scene. The man was taken across the river to the Downtown Marina where he was interviewed to make sure no one else was with him in the water.

The victim was transported by Beaufort County EMS to Beaufort Memorial Hospital.

"This was a dangerous situation for the man in the water, and it became a major effort by several cooperating agencies to locate him in the dark, in the moving river, and to engage a rescue operation," said Negron. "Fortunately, the man survived, but we discourage anyone from swimming in our local waters after dark because of the current and tides, underwater obstacles that can snag an unsuspecting swimmer and other good reasons."

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