Water rescue of swimmers on Potomac River prompts warning from a - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Water rescue of swimmers on Potomac River prompts warning from authorities

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Montgomery County fire officials have a reminder for anybody thinking of swimming in parts of the Potomac River south of Great Falls: it's illegal and dangerous. This new warning comes after a water rescue team plucked four people to safety Monday afternoon.

The two men and two women, in their late teens or early 20s, ended up on rocks in the middle of the river.

"Clearly, this is another example of the dangers of the river," says Montgomery Fire Division Chief Scott Goldstein.

He says the four swimmers entered the river on the Virginia side of the Potomac. The rescue launched after three hikers saw the swimmers in distress.

"They were literally trying to swim this way and going that way," says Jessica Ford. "It was bad."

"They were definitely screaming for help because they couldn't swim back," adds Meagan Ford.

You can see how strong the current is just looking at the river's surface from shore. But there is a significant undertow that you can't see.

Warning signs are all over the trails leading to the river's edge -- in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.

"There are signs that say don't swim in the water, don't even wade in the water because the currents are too dangerous," says hiker Mary Liddi. "I've heard of people dying in these waters, so why risk my life?”

Chief Goldstein says while kayaking is permitted in parts of the river, only the most experienced should venture out.

As for swimmers, he says: "Stay out of the river. While it may look enticing, while it may look refreshing, use another body of water, use a swimming pool and stay out of the Potomac River."

Because, he says, with summer just starting, there are going to be plenty more rescues.

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