Myrtle Beach and Horry County first responders suspended the search for a missing swimmer in the Intracoastal Waterway around 3:30 p.m. Friday.
Thunder storms rolled into the area, making a water search unsafe by 3 p.m., Horry County Fire rescue tweeted. Assets from HCFR, Myrtle Beach Fire Department, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Coast Guard and Myrtle Beach police were used in the search.
The first 911 call reporting that a man had gone under in the area around the George Bishop Parkway bridge
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sun News
Tim Gorski, who lives on the waterway on Waterside Drive, called 911 around 11:07 a.m. and helped emergency responders open and use a boat ramp on the street.
Gorski said that on Friday morning, he saw a blue and white sailboat moving under the George Bishop Parkway bridge with a man and a woman riding on it. As they passed near the bridge, both Gorski and the people saw a man in the water.
The sailors asked the man if he was okay, Gorski said. As they approached, the man said he was not and went under the water.
Gorski then saw the male passenger of the boat jump into the water, possibly to mark the place where the body went under. Gorski said the woman continued to circle the area.
The couple on the sailboat yelled to Gorski to call 911, which he did at 11:07 a.m., he said.
Brandi Hannon, another Waterside resident, stood near the waterway watching the scene as a handful of police boats gathered under the George Bishop bridge with their lights flashing. They clustered around the same sailboat, Hannon said, that had passed the struggling man.
She worried that the man might have been carried far away by 12:45 pm, more than an hour after the first call.
"We take our boat out there all the time and it was rough," Hannon said. "[The current in] the middle is super strong."
Multiple Waterside residents said that a group of homeless people often camp in the wooded section directly across the waterway.
"I've seen them swimming or bathing before," Gorski said.
Nugent said the search would at least continue until dark, when conditions would become unsafe for divers.
However, divers were not yet in the water at 1:45 p.m. HCFR Capt. Mark Nugent said searchers were using side-scanning sonar to search the waterway.
The couple on the boat did alert the Coast Guard immediately, he said.
"A lot of things happened fast to give this man a chance, but unfortunately, we haven't found him yet," Nugent said.
"It's too long for a rescue, unfortunately," he added.