Rescue crews expanding search for swimmer missing in Congaree River

Rescue crews are expanding their search of the Congaree River for a swimmer who went missing after being overcome by the strong current Sunday.

Crews responded to the area of the river around the Gervais Street bridge around 11:30 a.m. Sunday about a report of four swimmers in distress on the water while trying to swim across the river, according to Battalion Chief Christopher Kip with the Columbia Fire Department.

“It was a really hard current, and they started struggling and realized too late that they were in trouble,” Kip said.

One swimmer made it to some rocks near the middle of the river and two were helped by a civilian, Kip said. The fourth swimmer has not been located.

Divers with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department and a helicopter focused much of their efforts on the area of the river between the Gervais Street and Blossom Street bridges. However, late Sunday afternoon they expanded the search area downriver, and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources deployed officers to assist in the search.

None of the swimmers were wearing life jackets, Kip said.

He called the bystander who went into the river to help the swimmers “heroic.”

“He went from one side of the river to about the middle,” Kip said. “He really did a terrific thing today saving those two people.”

The Gervais Street bridge was partially closed earlier but later reopened.

Check back for updates.