Body pulled from Potomac River believed to be swimmer missing since Friday

Body pulled from Potomac River believed to be missing swimmer

A body recovered from the Potomac River on Monday is believed to be a young man who went missing last Friday while attempting to swim from Virginia to Maryland.

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesman Pete Piringer told WTOP two swimmers near Great Falls tried to cross from Virginia into Maryland on Friday evening.

One swimmer made it, while the other went missing nearby Sandy Landing and was later presumed to have drowned.

On Sunday afternoon, sonar equipment indicated a body may have been stuck in some rocks close to the area the swimmer was last seen.

As crews prepared to investigate the sonar imaging Monday morning, officials got a tip.

“A local kayaker noticed the body floating in the water,” Piringer said. “That body has since been recovered.”

Montgomery County police are leading the death investigation. U.S. Park police assisted county police in the search and recovery efforts.

Swimming spot draws ‘unusual’ number of young swimmers to danger

The man has not been identified publicly. His death comes as good weather has drawn visitors out to Great Falls, even though swimming in the Potomac is illegal and violators can be fined.

In the past few weeks leading up to Memorial Day, Piringer said the department has responded to around a half dozen incidents in the Great Falls area.

Crews and boats along the water
Crews on the seen of the Potomac River where a body was found on May 27, 2024, that’s believed to be a missing swimmer. (Courtesy Montgomery County Fire and Rescue)
Rescue truck drives down dirt road
A young man went missing after attempting to swim across the channel from Virginia to Maryland on May 24, 2024. (Courtesy Montgomery County Fire and Rescue)
Sign in park saying swimming is illegal in Potomac River and violators could be fined more than $200
Swimming isn’t allowed at Great Falls. But a spokesman with Montgomery County Fire and Rescue said a beach along the river has become a popular destination for young people to dive in. (Courtesy Montgomery County Fire and Rescue)
Crews and boats along the water
Rescue truck drives down dirt road
Sign in park saying swimming is illegal in Potomac River and violators could be fined more than $200

“The water levels are about four feet, which is relatively high, but the currents are treacherous,” Piringer said.

Just in the past week or so, the department has contributed to two notable water rescues. One involved two kayakers who went over the falls.

These two young people were lucky that they survived that ordeal. One had to be plucked off the rocks by the helicopter and was taken to a trauma center.

In several instances, swimmers have been swept away, including one where rescue crews plucked someone out of the water.

“There have been an unusual number of young people, groups that have been swimming,” Piringer said.

In particular, groups are gathering at Purple Horse Beach and Sandy Landing. Piringer said though swimming is not allowed and “dangerous,” there are some rocks swimmers jump off into the water below.

“When you’re jumping in the water, there’s hazards underneath the water that might be unseen,” he said.

Another potential danger is that water levels change daily and the currents are strong, Piringer said.

Last year, water levels were low so young people “could swim safely and got away with it,” he said. “But water is different this year it’s higher, because currents are much stronger.”

Officials are on Billy Goat Trail along the Potomac River Monday reminding visitors on safety tips, according to Piringer.

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein contributed to this story.

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Jessica Kronzer

Jessica Kronzer graduated from James Madison University in May 2021 after studying media and politics. She enjoys covering politics, advocacy and compelling human-interest stories.

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