Greg Allen Norton Jr. of Goose Creek was surfing at 2 p.m. Sunday with several friends about 200 feet from shore among three- to four- foot waves during high tide when he disappeared---
September 12, 2005
Surfer vanishes off Folly
Authorities say they will resume search today.
Divers will return to the waters off Folly Beach this morning in search of a missing 18-year-old surfer, authorities said.
Greg Allen Norton Jr. of Goose Creek was surfing at 2 p.m. Sunday with several friends about 200 feet from shore among three- to four- foot waves during high tide when he disappeared, according to George Tittle, director of public safety for Folly Beach.
Friends said Norton was not tethered to his board, according to Tittle.
Folly Beach police launched a search-and-rescue operation and requested support from the Charleston County Sheriff's Office, U.S. Coast Guard and Charleston County Rescue Squad, Tittle said.
Two helicopters, three boats and two jet skis were deployed to the area just south of the fishing pier, and six divers were searching a wide swath of ocean from Third Street West to the southernmost point of Folly Beach, about a mile and a half away, said Lt. Jack Scarborough of the Sheriff's Office.
Although Hurricane Ophelia stirred up the waters off the South Carolina shore, divers said the currents were manageable but that the water becomes more active and difficult to navigate when the tide moves in or out.
By early evening Tittle was not optimistic Norton would be found.
"We're in recovery mode right now," he said.
Tittle said he would rely on a skeleton crew to monitor the beach with spotlights during the night in case Norton washes ashore.
Distraught friends and family were gathered on the porch of a nearby house. The Rev. Bill Youngblood of Coastal Crisis Chaplaincy said Norton's brother, sister, father, friends and church pastor were awaiting Norton's mother and consoling one another as hope faded and rescue workers wound down their operation for the night.
Norton was there one moment and gone the next, witnesses said. Only his surfboard was seen floating on the water.
At least two witnesses said sharks had been seen in the area at the time of his disappearance and that Norton might have been pulled under the water by one.
Alton Wiggins, who was surfing Sunday at Folly Beach, said he spoke with a friend of Norton's who was nearby when Norton disappeared. "He said a surfer had been pulled under," he said, and that a shark was involved. "He said he saw him get hit and pulled under."
Norton's surfboard was recovered and bore no signs of a shark bite, police said.
Another witness, Karla Winningham of Summerville, said sharks were spotted swimming in the area where Norton had been.
"I saw the fins," she said.
Others reported seeing porpoises, Tittle said. Authorities are treating the case as a search for a missing surfer, not a shark attack, he said.
He expects to fully resume the recovery operation at daybreak and has asked authorities on Kiawah Island and elsewhere down the coast to be on the lookout.
"Right now we're working for the family, trying to make sure we do everything we can do," Tittle said.
Adam Parker can be reached at email@example.com or 607- 0806.
Staff writer Schuyler Kropf contributed to this report.
Credit: Of The Post and Courier Staff