Tampa, Florida -- Thousands of people flock to the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River each year for the thrills of whitewater rafting. But on Wednesday, those thrills turned deadly for Tom Hill of Tampa.
The 51-year-old fell out of the raft in a rapid called Sock 'Em Dog and was pulled under by the current.
"One of the guides and some of the customers went overboard. Several of them resurfaced, but unfortunately Mr. Hill did not," said Michelle Burnett, a spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service in a phone interview.
Hill was a family man. His wife Linda's Facebook page shows their four children. Friends tell 10 News he was devoted to his family and active in Cypress Point Community Church in New Tampa.
Hill was a sales manager for Sherwin-Williams. He was taking part in a large corporate retreat. About 175 people from the company went rafting.
Sherwin-Williams did not say if that rafting trip was mandatory, but on Friday the company issued this statement:
"The Sherwin-Williams family is deeply saddened and mourns the loss of Tom Hill.
Tom, a 27-year veteran from our Tampa, FL district, was a valued member of the Sherwin-Williams team and contributed significantly to the company's success. Tom will be greatly missed.
Our condolences and prayers go out to Tom's wife Linda and their four children during their time of mourning.
The company is working closely with investigators to determine the details surrounding the accident."
Officials from South Carolina say their initial investigation shows that the rafting tour company was following safety procedures. Hill was wearing a life vest and helmet and the river flow was considered a safe level.
However, the work to recover Hill's body has been hazardous itself. Dozens of experts from various agencies have either rafted two hours down the river or hoofed it for 40 minutes over rough terrain just to get to the remote location.
"We wouldn't send anybody out there, if we didn't think it was safe to operate," said Burnett. "But we want to give closure to the family, so that's why these guys are out there today."
But Friday's efforts proved unsuccessful. Reached by phone again on Friday evening, Burnett said it appears the currents have moved Hill's body away from where it was spotted on Thursday. So on Saturday, teams using underwater cameras will once again try to locate Hill's body.