Fire & rescue units from Lexington County side of the river join in search for missing swimmer i

West Columbia, SC (Paul Kirby) – Fire and rescue personnel from the Lexington County side of the Congaree River assisted the City of Columbia Fire Department, and other agencies, in the search for a missing swimmer Sunday morning. A number of state and local agencies were involved in the search that began near the Gervais Street Bridge.

A Columbia Fire Department official said that around 11 a.m., four swimmers got into trouble just below the bridge. This is a popular spot to swim, launch inner-tubes, fish, and to put in canoes, small boats, and kayaks for trips downriver.

One of the distressed swimmers was able to get to safety without assistance. Two of the others were rescued by a passerby. The fourth, described as a man in his 30s, disappeared beneath the muddy waters of the river and has not been found.

A number of different resources from multiple agencies were used during the search on Sunday. This included boats, divers, and a helicopter from SLED. During the active portion of the search, the Gervais Street Bridge was shut down for a time, but it was reopened Sunday afternoon.

Both the West Columbia Fire Department and the Cayce Department of Public Safety have well equipped, well trained, water rescue teams. Each department has special boats and watercraft for use in rescues and for searching the river for missing swimmers and boaters if necessary. They are often called to assist at various parts of both the Saluda and the Congaree rivers when swimmers or boaters are in distress.

The search for the missing swimmer was called off late Sunday. It is expected to resume sometime Monday morning.

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