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A 21-year old vacationer from Ohio is suspected to have drowned in Lockwood Folly Inlet off Holden Beach Tuesday night.
Holden Beach Police Chief Wally Layne said the victim was with a church group from the Columbus area that brought more than 300 visitors to the island this week.
“It’s not the way we wanted to start the season,” he said.
Layne informed town officials during Tuesday night’s town meeting emergency services began searching for the swimmer around 5:30 p.m.
“At around 5:30 p.m. a 21-year old attempted to swim across Lockwood Folly Inlet, which is never a good idea,” Layne said.
Layne said the tide was just starting to rise when the swimmer was crossing. He went under at the buoy in the center of the inlet, where he was last seen, Layne said.
A search was conducted by the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office helicopter and water rescue boats from Oak Island, Tri-Beach, Brunswick County Emergency services and the Coast Guard until sunset.
By 7:15 p.m. when he notified the town board, Layne feared they were no longer attempting a water rescue, but the search had become a water recovery.
When the search was suspended about 8:30 Tuesday night, Layne said authorities will start again at daylight Wednesday morning.
Layne said the victim would not be identified until family could be notified.
Members of the church group at the scene of the search along the inlet declined to comment on the incident.
Angie Smith, who was beachcombing near the inlet Tuesday night, said she saw a few boys and girls swimming in the inlet at around 5:30 p.m.
“It was a real low tide. I told one of their friends to get them back in because it’s very dangerous. I told him the current can take you fast,” Smith said.
Smith said when the friend called out to the swimmer, he was close to the buoy.
She said she then heard him hollering and looked like he was struggling.
“His friend asked if I had a phone. He said he’s gone down and did not come up,” she said.
Smith said she didn’t have a phone but ran down the beach looking for someone to call 911.
Brian Slattery is a staff writer for The Brunswick Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or email@example.com.