Body of missing swimmer found in the Waccamaw River

akelley@thesunnews.comJune 18, 2013 

Horry County officials on Tuesday found the body of a man who was reported missing in the Waccamaw River since Friday.

Julius Graham, spokesman for Horry County Fire Rescue, said a body was recovered from the river near the Red Bluff Boat Landing about 2 p.m., but he did not know where specifically in the river.

Horry County Deputy Coroner Darris Fowler confirmed the body was that of James Edward “Eddie” Lee, 50, of Conway, and said an autopsy will be performed Wednesday morning on Lee.

Ian Eckert, Lee’s stepson, said it’s been tough the last few days, and while he’s sad, he said it’s a good thing authorities found his stepfather.

Crews from Horry County Fire Rescue and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources responded about 3:30 p.m. Friday to the Red Bluff Boat Landing for a swimmer in distress and learned from Lee’s family that he went under the water and never resurfaced.

A water rescue team used a boat with side-scan sonar technology and divers in the water to search for Lee near a bridge that runs over the river.

Eckert said he was swimming in the river with a friend Friday when he noticed his mother, Saleeta “Sassy” Lee, having a seizure. He went to take care of his mother, but then he noticed that his step-father, Eddie Lee, was having trouble in the water.

Eckert, his friend and another man tried to get to Lee in the river, but were feet away when Eckert said he saw Lee go under the water.

“We were too late, he went under and we’ve been trying to find him ever since,” Eckert said from the river bank Friday, while crews continued to scan the water.

Sassy Lee said Friday that her husband had surgery on his rotator cuff about a month ago and was doing shoulder exercises in the river water.

She said the Red Bluff Boat Landing was one of her family’s favorite spots to hang out and they frequently swam in the river.

Eckert said he hasn’t been back to the river since Friday.

“It’s a little too hard for me to do it right now,” he said.

Lee has two other children, Savannah Lee and Jimmy Lee.

Eckert said he hopes people know Lee was a good father.

“He was a good dad,” he said. “He did whatever he could to survive and protect my family and to make my mom feel better.”

Contact AMANDA KELLEY at 626-0381, or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_akelley.

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