Participating in the Hudson River Marathon Swim, Charles van der Horst had disappeared after just finishing the last stage of the event due to a cardiac event this last weekend. Van Der Host was competing in the “8 Bridges Race” a seven stage marathon swim; on Friday, June 14th, around the Hudson when he was reported missing just after crossing the finish line on that day’s stage of the race. Despite the abundance of personnel watching him, the witnesses say it happened so fast that nobody was able to get to him before he slipped under the water. 911 was quickly called and rescue personnel quickly arrived on site. On a statement posted on their Facebook page, New York Open Water stated…

“He was participating in several stages of the 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim when he went under at the finish of Stage 6,” the organization wrote, adding that he “exemplified living life to its fullest.”

The post also included the last picture of Van Der Horst showing him enthusiastically jumping into the water to start stage 6. It shows his love and enthusiasm for swimming and life.

He is well known among the swimming community for his cheerful spirit and enthusiasm to tackle any challenge that lies ahead of him. This attitude helped him to lead groundbreaking research as a Professor of Medicine at the onset of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in which he helped changed the narrative of the disease through his compassionate care and advocacy for some of the first patients of AIDs. His research helped make HIV/AIDS into a preventable and treatable disease that has impacted the lives of millions of people around the world.

Van Der Host officially retired in 2015 but kept working by volunteering his time and resources to continue making a positive impact on medicine and within the community. His work as an activist with movements ranging from Black Lives Matter to the March for Science shows his passion and energy for ensuring that people are represented and heard. He shared his passion and experiences for swimming in a column published in 2018

“My friends and I, like-minded men and women of all ages and abilities, haul ourselves out of bed in the early-morning darkness to focus on swimming for 60 minutes every day. Each year prior to the big meet, we transform ourselves into buff daddys and mommys through weight lifting, targeted practices and dropping pounds to our “fighting weight,” allowing us to maintain our swim times despite the passing years. Our goal is to beat our own times, our “personal best.” Despite our advancing years we compete credibly against swimmers half our age.

University of North Carolina, where Van Der Horst worked as a professor of medicine released a statement, exemplifying his passion and dedication to research and clinical work…

“He was recognized as a leader in the research and treatment of HIV/AIDS, in North Carolina and worldwide,” the statement said. “He was an incredible force for good, and led by his example of dedication to science and service. Our UNC School of Medicine team is saddened by the news. Our thoughts are with his family.”

He has been a passionate athlete, having participated in various marathons, triathons and just began training for open water swim marathons in the last few years. He is well known among those communities and was always a go to guy willing to offer help and compassion to anybody and everybody. He has inspired many athletes and people with his energy and attitude toward sports and his loss has sent ripples through the community.

By Dirk Smith