Rescuers try to find Columbia River swimmer

9-1-13-columbia river search
Rescuers search for a missing swimmer Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013, near the Red Lion Hotel at the Quay. (KOIN 6 News)

VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — A search is underway for a man who may have drowned on the Columbia River.

9-1-13-water search-Chris Woodard
A dive team continued its search into the dark on the Columbia River near the Red Lion Hotel at the Quay Sunday night, Sept. 1, 2013. (KOIN 6 News, Chris Woodard via Twitter)

Two girls on the riverbank jumped into the water to try to save him — but he never came back up. This happened around 6 p.m. just down from the Red Lion Hotel at the Quay in Vancouver, Wash.

With the sun quickly setting Sunday, rescuers had little time to search by daylight. By 7:30 p.m., rescue efforts turned into a search for a body.

As darkness fell dive teams take over. As of late Sunday night, that search had been unsuccessful.

A group of teens said they were at the dock by the Red Lion when they saw a man swim out in the water — far enough away from the dock that a small boat was able to get through.

“I heard this guy saying ‘help’ and they were in the boat,” said a witness.

Witnesses said the boat then sped away, and the man swimming in the river went under.

9-1-13-columbia river search items
Items left at the scene of a possible drowning Sept. 1, 2013, off the dock near the Red Lion Hotel at the Quay. (KOIN 6 News)

“He kept going under and he’d come back up and go under,” said another witness. “And at first we thought he was faking, because he was sitting there laughing.”

When they realized it was no joke they tried to help.

“We decided something wasn’t right,” said one of the teens. “So we decided to jump in and try to save him, but by the time we got to him he was really far under.”

Someone in the group called 911, and rescue swimmers arrived. The search for the man at that time was unsuccessful.

Firefighters think some unclaimed possessions near the dock could belong to the swimmer. If so, they believe he is a man in his 20s.

“Everything happened so fast,” said one of the teens. “I’m like in shock.”

— KOIN 6 News Reporter Chris Woodard also contributed with live tweets from the scene.

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