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A day of tubing turned into a late-night water rescue last weekend as eight people were plucked from the fast-moving currents of the Catawba River.
The search for the group began shortly after 10 p.m. Saturday, June 23, after a call came into 911 from a man who said he was stuck in the Catawba River, according to a Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office incident report.
The man told a dispatcher he was inner tubing from Sun City Carolina Lakes in Indian Land and could not make it out of the water.
The call was lost before dispatchers could get the man’s name or exact location, though they learned the cell phone signal came from somewhere near the S.C. 5 bridge.
Several minutes later, dispatchers received a separate call from an Indian Land woman who said her 23-year-old daughter was missing, the report said.
The woman said her daughter had gone inner tubing about 11 a.m., but she hadn’t seen her since. She said her daughter entered the water at Sun City’s kayak launching area.
Several deputies then spread out and searched the Sun City launch area, where they found two parked cars, one belonging to the missing woman. Deputies also searched various other water access points, including along S.C. 5 and S.C. 9.
Joining in the search were various county rescue squads, as well as members of the Lancaster County Specialized Technical Advanced Response (STAR) Team, a multi-agency group of officers and firefighters, many of them versed in water rescue techniques.
The sheriff’s office also asked for help from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources and S.C. Law Enforcement Division, though neither was able to assist due to poor weather conditions.
At one point during the search, a local man offered to help ferry searchers in his truck down several paths leading from a lumber yard along Industrial Park Road toward the river.
That group stopped at several points along the river, flashing the truck’s headlights and blowing the horn until they eventually heard a response from the water. There they found one man in an inner tube, followed by the rest of the group, the report said.
Rescue workers then pulled eight people, all between the ages of 21 and 25, from the water. The group included seven men from Waxhaw and Charlotte, as well as the missing woman.
Emergency Medical Services was called to the scene, though none of the people were injured, said Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Matt Shaw.
Shaw said the rescue came hours after the group set off for a day of inner tubing on the river.
“They left from the Sun City (Carolina Lakes) boat landing and at some point, we’re not sure what transpired, but it was dark and there were some pretty severe storms coming in and they weren’t able to get where they needed to be,” Shaw said.
Throughout the day, the group traveled at least 11 miles, from Indian Land all the way to the area of Landsford Canal State Park, near the border of Chester and Lancaster counties.
Shaw said this was not the first time rescue workers have pulled people from the river after they have become stuck or lost their way.
“People do this all the time,” Shaw said. “Over the years, there’s been several folks who do that who get lost, get hurt. I think the main mistake folks make is misjudging how long it will take to get from one place to another. They are not at the place where they expected and when they expected and people get worried.”