Crime

UPDATE: Body of missing Waterway swimmer recovered; ocean swimmer dies after being pulled from sea; search continues for another ocean swimmer

A series of water disasters kept emergency crews scrambling Sunday, with authorities trying to rescue distressed swimmers and recover the bodies of the lost.

At least two drownings had been confirmed late Sunday. Meanwhile, officials continued looking for a swimmer who was last seen near 7th Avenue South in Myrtle Beach around 6 p.m. Saturday.

The first victim officials identified was 58-year-old Young Gwon Go of Charlotte. Around 3:15 p.m., he was pulled from the ocean near 2nd Avenue Pier in Myrtle Beach, said Horry County Deputy Coroner Michelle McSpadden. Go was transported to a local hospital where he died.

Around 4:45 p.m., a search team combing the Intracoastal Waterway near Enterprise Landing found the body of a swimmer who had disappeared the day before. The man’s name has not been officially released because his family lives in Mexico and they have not been notified yet, said Horry County Deputy Coroner Darris Fowler.

The waterway swimmer’s body was found by an S.C. Department of Natural Resources diver less than a mile from the landing, officials said.

The victim, a 42-year-old man, had been swimming with his friends on Saturday while the boat was anchored, said James Kinsey, who heads the dive team for SCDNR. When the man’s friends returned to the boat to dry off, he didn’t join them.

Divers couldn’t locate the man’s body Saturday night and resumed their efforts on Sunday. Despite the murkiness of the water, Kinsey said officials had an idea where the man was because they knew where the vessel had been anchored. They recovered the body on the third dive, about 15 feet below the water’s surface.

Throughout the day, the waterway swimmer’s friends stopped by Enterprise Landing seeking information about their friend.

Sergio Guzman, 36, said the victim is a construction worker who lives in the area but supports a wife and three children living in Mexico.

“Really, really good guy, you know,” he said. “You tell him you need him to work tomorrow, he go with you because he need the money.”

Guzman said his brother bought a boat a few months ago and he and his friend had gone out for a Saturday swim.

“My brother’s really upset about it,” he said. “He’s not sleeping.”

Guzman said he drove by the landing Saturday afternoon and saw the rescue crews. He called his brother to tell him about the scene, but got no answer. Guzman, his brothers and their friend were supposed to go surfing Sunday, so he didn’t try to call again until the following morning. That’s when he heard the news.

“You don’t know when something’s going to happen,” he said.

Bill Clarke, 30, also knew the swimmer. Clarke works on air conditioning units and said his friend did plaster and stucco jobs. Despite the grueling nature of the work, Clarke said his buddy always remained upbeat, even at the end of long days.

“You don’t see that in construction,” he said. “A lot of people are dog tired. He was just happy.”

The cause of death floored both Guzman and Clarke, who said their friend loved to swim and was known for hopping on a boogie board or jet ski.

The water, they said, was his main indulgence. Most of his money went to his family in Mexico.

“He was always working, trying to help his momma and take care of her,” Clarke said. “It’s really sad.”

In Myrtle Beach, officials searched Sunday for a swimmer who was last seen in the water around 6 p.m. Saturday near 7th Avenue South.

Officials have released few details about that case, but they did request assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard. They said the focus of that mission is now recovery.

Shortly before 7 p.m. Sunday, another struggling swimmer was rescued from the ocean near 14th Avenue South in Myrtle Beach.

Rodney Smith, a 28-year-old biker from Detroit, was swimming with friends when a giant wave knocked him down. Smith said he struggled to find his footing, then felt the current pulling him out to sea.

“It was, like, no bottom,” he said.

Smith’s muscles cramped as he battled to stay afloat. His friend and several bystanders swam out to him and brought him back to shore. He swallowed a lot of water, but otherwise is OK.

“I was like, ‘Thank God,’” he said. “I thought I was dying on vacation.”

Georgetown County officials also stayed busy at the beach Sunday.

Authorities scoured the ocean along Litchfield Beach after a surfer reported seeing a body floating in the sea.

Jim Crawford, assistant chief of Midway Fire Rescue, said authorities do not believe this was the swimmer who disappeared Saturday near Myrtle Beach.

“We discussed that,” he said. “That’s too far.”

Crawford said the sighting was reported around 1 p.m. Sunday. Midway sent jet skis and the Coast Guard was called to assist. Officials didn’t find anything in the water. They also said no swimmers had been reported missing in that area.

“Hopefully, he saw a marine animal,” Crawford said. “There was a big leatherback [turtle] floating around out there. It’s hard to tell.”

Contact CHARLES D. PERRY at 626-0218 or on Twitter @TSN_CharlesPerr.

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