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Swimmer who went missing during seven-day, 120-mile Hudson River race confirmed dead  1 Month ago

Source:   USA Today  

BERGEN COUNTY, N.J. - A North Carolina man who went missing while swimming in the Hudson River on Friday has been confirmed dead.

Charles van der Horst, 67, from Chapel Hill, was last seen going underwater in the sixth stage of New York Open Water’s 8 Bridges Open Water Swim, a seven-day, 120-mile swim along the Hudson River, Petty Officer Steve Strohmaier of the U.S. Coast Guard said.

Van der Horst’s family confirmed his death on Saturday.

“Charlie exemplified living life to its fullest,” the family wrote in a statement. “He put all of his passion and zest into everything he did, from his love of his family, friends and community, to his swimming to his work on social justice and in the medical field.”

Van der Horst was the emeritus professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and a global health consultant for EQUIP Health in South Africa, according to his Twitter account. He also served as a volunteer primary-care physician at a free clinic in Raleigh.

New York Open Water, the organization that runs the race, said in the statement, "Our thoughts are first and foremost with the Van Der Horst family and we ask that all respect their wish for privacy as they mourn this tragic loss."

Authorities called a search for him at 3 p.m. Friday in the Fort Lee and New York sides of the river.

New York Open Water canceled the seventh stage of the event, which was scheduled for Saturday, shortly after.

"We can confirm that all swimmer safety protocols were in place and that the NYPD was escorting the field," New York Open Water wrote in the statement.

Author Tim Tyson remembered his friend in a public post on Facebook, saying many people loved Van der Horst for "his sweet spirit, his pride in and love for his family, his deep and energetic love of humanity, his well-informed devotion to the common good, his kindness to everyone around him, his zesty embrace of life, his hilarious sense of humor and the absurd, and his unassuming and unflagging willingness to make sacrifices for his most deeply help moral values."

Van der Horst wrote about participating in previous swimming races down the Hudson in a column that appeared in the newspaper last year.

"Racing 15 miles in the Hudson River beneath the cliffs of West Point, dwarfed by an oil tanker with its propellers moving whump, whump, whump like some whale in heat, brought perspective as to the vastness of nature," Van der Horst wrote.

He wrote that when the waves tossed him "like a piece of flotsam," he embraced "the calm knowledge that I could ride them out despite my primal fears of the immense crushing power."

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