2nd rip current victim recovered on Hunting Island

mmcnab@islandpacket.com and emoody@beaufortgazette.comJuly 15, 2013 

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A second body has been pulled from the waters near Hunting Island on Monday morning, after the resumption of the search for two of the three swimmers reported missing Sunday afternoon.

The body of a 17-year-old teen was recovered Sunday afternoon off the coast of Hunting Island, according to a release from the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office. Another 17-year-old and the 38-year-old father of one of the boys was still missing when the search was suspended at around sundown.

Another body was recovered early Monday, the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office reports. It's not clear if the person discovered was the other 17-year-old or the 38-year-old. None of the three victims, all assumed to have drowned, have been identified by rescuers, but more information is expected today.

The three swimmers were reported missing at 4:45 p.m. A 14-year-old girl swimming with them said they were struggling against strong currents. When she became separated from the group, she swam back to shore and called for help, according to a Sheriff's Office news release Sunday.

A National Weather Service Charleston alert said the four swimmers were caught in a rip current.

One of the teens is the son of the 38-year-old man, and the other is a friend of the family, according to the Sheriff's Office release.

Witness Glenn White of Gaffney said the group was using a boogie board when they were swept out to sea, and none of them appeared able to swim. He said the group was pulled out a few hundred yards from the beach when they began to scream for help.

"The boogie board jumped straight out of the water and they just slid off," he said.

White and others started running down the beach trying to keep up with them. White and other bystanders trying to reach the group waded out into neck-deep water, but the group was too far away and moving too quickly in the current for them to help.

White said the girl turned on her back to float and paddled back to the shore, and he and others helped pull her to safety. The girl said she had grabbed one of the boys by the wrist, but he slipped from her grip in the current.

White said the entire incident occurred so quickly, he almost didn't know what happened. As he went to fish down the beach to clear his mind, White said his wife spotted someone in the water.

"It was one of the guys," he said. "I ran out and grabbed him and dragged him in. The authorities came down and got him after."

Search efforts to rescue the other two swimmers by the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office, U.S. Coast Guard, Hunting Island park rangers and the Fripp Island and Lady's Island fire departments were called off at about 8:45 p.m. as the sun set.

Officials confirmed the efforts were switched from rescue to recovery. Park rangers were to continue to patrol the shores overnight and the search to resume at daybreak Monday, according to Beaufort County officials.

Beaufort County Coroner Ed Allen said there were no obvious signs of physical injury on the body of the teenager recovered from the water Sunday. An autopsy is planned.

Allen added the names of the victims would not be released until the family has time to notify relatives out of the area.

Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Sgt. Robin McIntosh said the victims likely would not be identified until Monday.

Allen expressed his condolences for the swimmers Sunday night.

"As a community, we give this family who was visiting this area our thoughts and prayers," he said.

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