Man rescued from Beaufort River overnight Thursday arrested for public drunkenness

info@islandpacket.comMay 24, 2013 

A North Carolina man rescued from the Beaufort River early Friday was arrested by Beaufort police for public drunkenness shortly after emergency responders pulled him from the river.

The man, 39, entered the river for a midnight swim with a female companion near the Pigeon Point boat landing, S.C. Department of Natural Resources Sgt. Michael Paul Thomas said.

He quickly found himself fighting the river's current. He was carried downriver to the Woods Memorial Bridge, where he was rescued nearby at about 1 a.m., Thomas said.

His female companion-- who didn't have a cellphone -- drove their car and reported the situation to a nearby Beaufort police officer, according to a release from the Beaufort Fire Department.

Several agencies helped with the rescue: the Beaufort Fire Department, Lady's Island-St. Helena Fire District, Beaufort County EMS, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, a Coast Guard helicopter from Savannah, Beaufort Police Department -- including an officer with his personal boat -- and a bystander at the Beaufort Downtown Marina.

Emergency responders could hear the man in the river when they arrived, but they weren't sure where he was or which way he was moving, so water- and air-based rescue units were launched.

The man was found after a resident of Marsh Harbor on Lady's Island called 911 to report seeing him. Officers in downtown Beaufort said he was still alive and headed toward the Woods Memorial Bridge.

He was found clinging to a concrete piling on the Lady's Island side of the bridge. A private boat docked at the Downtown Marina, the DNR boat and a Lady's Island-St. Helena Fire District jet ski were launched to rescue him.

When they reached him, he was offered a life jacket. He was too tired to put it on but was able to hold onto it. He lost his grip on the piling, but was still rescued because he held onto the life jacket, which was attached to the rescuers by rope.

The man was interviewed to ensure others weren't with him and then taken to Beaufort Memorial Hospital for treatment. Beaufort police chief Matt Clancy said he was arrested and charged with public drunkenness after he left the hospital.

He was released from the Beaufort County Detention Center at 9 a.m. Friday on his own recognizance, according to the jail log.

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