Searchers combed the waters of the Waccamaw River for about seven hours before finding the body of a 50-year-old Horry County man who disappeared while swimming near his home in the Longs community.
Preliminary autopsy results showed Steve Watts of Star Bluff Road drowned when he went under the water late Tuesday, Horry County Deputy Coroner Tamara Willard said.
Watts lived in his family's home next to the river and was his elderly mother's caretaker, family members said.
"He was a good-hearted man," said Doris Darrow, Watts' cousin. "He would do anything for you."
She said he worked construction jobs through the years before he was stricken by arthritis and moved into his parents' home to take care of his mother.
Horry County Fire Rescue Dive team members found Watts' body at 11 a.m. Wednesday about 5 feet from where he went under the water about 10 p.m. Tuesday while swimming near a small boat landing next to his home, said Sgt. Mike Prosser with the state Department of Natural Resources.
Watts was swimming with friends and family who were in town for a memorial service of someone who died several years prior, Prosser said. The area of the river where he was last seen is between 7 to 10 feet deep.
Friends and family told authorities Watts raised his arms up when he was in the water, went under and wasn't seen again, Prosser said. When he didn't resurface, they called police.
Officials searched from 10 p.m. Tuesday until 1 a.m. Wednesday before they suspended the search because of darkness and safety concerns for searchers. They resumed the search at 8 a.m. Wednesday.
"He was a loving person," said Stan Watts, who is Watts' first cousin.
Stan Watts said Watts had two children and a grandchild, and described him as a "good natured" person.
Prosser said swimmers should always go with a friend and never swim if they have consumed too much food or alcohol. He also suggested swimmers wear a lifejacket.
Dive team members from Horry County Fire Rescue and DNR officers used boats to search the river for Watts.