Sadly, a body was recovered in the Potomac River where a young adult disappeared trying to swim across the river. Photo: MCFRS PIO Pete Piringer

Body of Missing Swimmer Recovered from Potomac River Amid Swift Water Warnings

A body has been found in the Potomac River and it is believed to be that of a young man who tried to swim across the river on Friday. It’s a grim reminder of how deadly the Montgomery County, Maryland, stretch of the Potomac can be.

When the weather turns summery, the Potomac River can look cool and inviting. The width of the river, between the banks of Maryland and Virginia, doesn’t look so broad. But what you see at the surface is misleading. The currents and the rocks are so dangerous that it’s flat-out illegal to swim in the river.

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue (MCFRS) swift water teams had been seeing several groups of young people swimming in the days leading up to this tragedy. MCFRS was even gearing up to launch their Potomac River Safety Awareness Campaign on Memorial Day.

Crews search for the missing swimmer during Memorial Day weekend. Photo: MCFRS PIO Pete Piringer

But a few days before the safety campaign was to launch, MCFRS got reports that two young adult swimmers entered the water in Virginia, attempting to swim to the Maryland shore. One swimmer made it, the other did not.

The two were swimming near Sandy Landing, just south of Great Falls. The missing swimmer was a young man wearing black shorts. MCFRS Public Information Officer Pete Piringer said he “became distressed and went underwater”. After local water rescue crews spent days searching for the young man, he was presumed drowned.

Then, search crews using sonar found a body under the water, stuck among some rocks in the vicinity of Sandy Landing. The body was recovered around 8 a.m. the morning of Memorial Day, May 27, and brought to the Old Anglers boat ramp. The fire and rescue department believes the body is that of the swimmer they were searching for.

Montgomery County Police are conducting an investigation into the young man’s death.

The annual Potomac River Safety Campaign is now underway and MCFRS is asking people to observe the warnings posted frequently along the river. “Uprooted trees, debris, hidden boulders, and other hazards create a situation so dangerous for swimming that wading and swimming are illegal in many places,” the department says. These hazards could pin a swimmer or trap their feet, even if the person is just wading in.

The MCFRS Water Rescue Team is well-trained in mobilizing and responding to the water, but they still have to get to the river’s edge to launch their boat, then make way to wherever on the river the emergency is. Sometimes it may be too late.

Piringer tweeted this warning to the other young people rescue crews have been observing swimming in the Potomac: “If you want to get older, don’t do it!”