June 15, 2019 / 7:02 PM / a month ago

New York police divers search Hudson River for missing swimmer

(Reuters) - New York City police scuba divers searched the Hudson River on Saturday for a retired North Carolina professor who went missing while participating in a swim competition, officials said.

FILE PHOTO: A New York Waterway ferry boat crosses the Hudson River as heavy fog hangs over the Manhattan skyline in New York City, New York, U.S., May 2, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

Police began the search on Friday, soon after a witness reported Charles van der Horst, 67, went under the water during the 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim, said New York City Police Department spokesman Ahmed Nasser.

Scuba divers resumed the search on Saturday morning, focusing their efforts near the George Washington Bridge, Nasser said.

The non-profit group New York Open Water, which organized the event, confirmed the swimmer went missing.

The 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim is a 120-mile (193-km) marathon broken up into several stages. Van der Horst went missing during the sixth stage. The final leg, scheduled for Saturday, was canceled as police searched for him.

The sixth stage spanned nearly 16 miles (26 km) from the Tappan Zee/Mario Cuomo Bridge south to the George Washington Bridge in northern Manhattan, New York Open Water said on its Facebook page on Friday morning, before van der Horst went missing.

“This stage is a fan favorite thanks to the fast currents and beautiful views of the Palisades,” it said at the time, referring to the steep cliffs that line the west bank of the river.

Van der Horst was among several swimmers who completed earlier stages on Monday and Tuesday, but on Thursday, the day before he went missing, he did not appear to have finished a nearly 20 mile (32 km) leg of the competition, according to results on New York Open Water’s website.

The 8 Bridges Hudson River swim begins north of the city at the Rip Van Winkle Bridge between Hudson and Catskill and it ends at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge between Staten Island and the New York City borough of Brooklyn.

Van der Horst was a retired professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, the school said in a statement.

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles

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