Jessica Carpenter received a phone call Tuesday afternoon and immediately drove to the Dunbar Toll Bridge, where she saw emergency crews searching the water.
“I received a phone call that it may be one of my friends. I'm terrified I just want to stay here and make sure it's not him,” said Carpenter.
Divers and firefighters from Charleston, South Charleston and Dunbar searched the water near the bridge for over five hours. They called their search off just before 5 p.m.
According to witnesses, a man in his 20s jumped into the water to swim. He went under and never came up.
According to the Army Corps of Engineers, under normal conditions is river is about 760 feet wide and ranges from 12 to 30 feet deep.
“There's a channel that sort of runs in the middle where all of the traffic goes. It only takes a couple seconds for that current to get you. And naturally, the longer you go the more tired you're going to get,” said Jason Burger, the assistant fire chief of the Dunbar Fire Department.
Witnesses told Burger and other firefighters, the man swam out to the mid-stream buoy. He took a break and then tried to continue to swim to the South Charleston side where he went under.
Divers said time is of the essence during rescues and one of the most challenging aspects is the current is constantly changing.
“You have to fight the wind and the current so it's sort of tough to find a place to start and then you sort of have to branch out,” said Burger.
South Charleston police and firefighters are handling the investigation. They said this is the second water call the fire department has responded to this summer. The department averages seven to eight water rescue calls a season.