Crews continue search for 14-year-old swimmer - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

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Crews continue search for 14-year-old swimmer

Dozens of beach-goers linked arms and combed the ocean to try to find the missing swimmer. (Source: Taylor Johnson) Dozens of beach-goers linked arms and combed the ocean to try to find the missing swimmer. (Source: Taylor Johnson)
Beach at 73rd N, Myrtle Beach (Source: Amy Lipman, WMBF News Reporter) Beach at 73rd N, Myrtle Beach (Source: Amy Lipman, WMBF News Reporter)
Dozens of people search the area for the missing swimmer. (Source: Robby Causey) Dozens of people search the area for the missing swimmer. (Source: Robby Causey)

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – The search continued Saturday for a missing swimmer in the ocean off 73rd Avenue North in Myrtle Beach. 

Lt. Crosby with the Myrtle Beach Police Department said officers were on the beach continuing the search Saturday.

Police said he is a 14-year-old male from Georgia, who was last seen wearing blue swim trunks.

Crews remained on the beach overnight Thursday and watercraft were brought in Friday morning to resume the search.

SLIDESHOW: View images from the search here

Crews first responded to two swimmers in distress in the ocean at around noon Thursday.  Lifeguards and a bystander were able to rescue one of the swimmers, who is the younger brother of the swimmer who is still missing. The brothers are on vacation in Myrtle Beach from Columbus, Georgia, according to Lt. Joey Crosby with Myrtle Beach Police.

“I heard curdling, curdling screams, and the one lifeguard came up, and he said, ‘I got the one little boy; I could not get the other little boy.’ He’s devastated,” said Terry Caviccho, a witness visiting from Pennsylvania.

Ryan Harris, a supervisor with Gene’s Beach Service/Myrtle Beach Lifeguards, said Thursday began as a normal beach day.

“Conditions were typical,” Harris said. “Maybe just a little worse than normal, but not enough to warrant pulling people out of the water by any means.”

Harris said rip currents can pop up randomly and he said one started pulling the two boys away from the other swimmers. He said they hadn’t been swimming far from shore.

“I think in that case it could’ve been a mixture of them being hung in a rip, stepping off a sandbar, kind of getting overhead and the mixture of the waves being a little bigger than normal,” he said. “It probably just made for a mixture of a bad situation.”

A lifeguard dove in to help them.

“The way it sounded, when he got out there, it was kind of a scene, and they were both kind of fighting for the buoy and one of them kind of went under,” Harris said.

The lifeguard tried looking for that swimmer, but he couldn’t find him, so he had to bring the one child on his buoy back to safety.

“By the time the other two [lifeguards] got there from the sides, he already went under and that’s when we began to look for him,” Harris said.

He said lifeguards dove at the end of human chains of volunteers from the beach.

“I could see the family. I could hear them,” Harris said. “I could see the panic from everybody’s faces on the beach.”

Harris said he never responded to this kind of situation in 16 years of working with Gene’s Beach Service.

“I’ve had situations where people have had heart attacks or broken necks or a lot of bad things happen, but that’s the first one I’ve ever had where somebody went under in that spot and we couldn’t find them,” he said.

He said the lifeguard who initially responded is very experienced.

"Under no circumstances was anybody pointing any fingers," he said. "I think if you walk up and down the beach everyone will tell you the response was great, everybody did exactly what they should’ve done. It was just an unfortunate incident."

Harris also said he believes the lifeguards do as much as they can to protect people, but the ocean is unpredictable.

"We are absolutely the safest possible scenario we can be out here," he said. "We’re staffed. We have a lifeguard every block. We have guys that float around on vehicles and ride around and check."

Lt. Crosby said police and fire rescue resources were deployed for the search Thursday evening, and the U.S. Coast Guard assisted in the scene. At about 5:45 p.m. Thursday, Lt. Crosby said that police suspended the use of jet skis in the search due to the threat of lightning. 

In addition to all of the trained rescuers combing the water and the Coast Guard helicopter that circled overhead, nearly 100 people linked arms and got right into the ocean to form a human chain.

Myrtle Beach Police said this helps their efforts because the chain of people can cordon off sections as they do a grid search.

Some volunteers stayed in the formation for more than an hour, being pummeled by waves and walking together in the water nearly 10 blocks.

Volunteers said it was the natural response to help.

“I just see everybody forming a line,” said Stephanie Kingery, who is visiting from Indiana. “I thought, I have five kids, and I thought, if that were one of my kids, I’d want as many people out there looking as possible.”

Copyright 2016 WMBF News. All rights reserved.

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