2 Bodies Found In Delaware’s Murderkill River

Murderkill River Delaware

Delaware Police Murderkill River, Delaware

The bodies of a missing Philadelphia man and his brother have been recovered from Delaware’s Murderkill River.

The Delaware State Police confirmed the missing swimmers had been located this week, on July 1, via their official Facebook page.

The update reads:

South Bowers Beach– On June 30, 2020, at 2:59 p.m., the Delaware State Police responded to the Muderkill River/South Bowers area for a report of two swimmers that had been carried away by the strong water currents.

The investigation revealed 21-year-old Kevin George Jr. of Philadelphia, his brother, 20-year-old Zion George of Tennessee, a 20-year-old female from Philadelphia, and a 20-year-old male from Philadelphia all traveled to the South Bowers Beach area together for a day trip at approximately 2:00 p.m.

The three males entered the water in the Delaware Bay to go swimming during low tide conditions. As they were in the water, the tide changed, and the strong current pulled all three into the Murderkill River. During this time, the Assistant Chief of South Bowers Beach Fire Department Michael Hignutt and his cousin, Timothy Smith, were fishing in the area and heard cries for help.

Both Hignutt and Smith entered the water in an attempt to rescue the swimmers. Hignutt successfully rescued the 20-year-old male to shore and discovered the female had now entered the water to try and save the other two individuals. The female was then pulled out by the current, and Hignutt successfully rescued her.

Kevin and Zion were unable to be located, and multiple police, fire departments, maritime, and Emergency Medical Service agencies responded to the scene and conducted a search and rescue operation. As of 9:00 p.m., the brothers were unable to be located, and the search efforts were suspended until 9:00 a.m. on July 1, 2020.

At approximately 9:00 a.m., the operation turned into a search and recovery mission for Kevin and Zion. At approximately 10:30 a.m., Kevin was located deceased in the Murderkill River in close proximity to where he was last seen. At 10:45 a.m., Zion was located deceased in the same general area.

6ABC’s Katie Katro reported on July 1 that when she arrived on the scene by the river,

We saw two bodies recovered right on that beach here. Crews recovered those two bodies after an ongoing search that started around 3 p.m. yesterday.

We’re told four people went swimming here … all in their early 20s. The current was so strong yesterday that all four got swept away, someone onshore was able to see those swimmers and was able to actually rescue two of them but two other ones were missing all throughout yesterday and into this morning, when crews resumed their search.

We saw two bodies recovered right around here, when we first got on scene.

The Man Who Rescued 2 of the Swimmers Spoke About the Experience

Michael Hignutt, the assistant chief of South Bowers Beach Fire Company, who was fishing at the time, managed to rescue two of the swimmers. He spoke to the News Journal about the experience.

Hignutt said he dropped his fishing pole and entered the water. Noticing the swimmers getting further away, he went back to shore to try to cut them off by land. He said he had his radio on him – something he doesn’t always have when he’s not working – and called in to Kent County dispatch to request a water rescue.

He reached one 20-year-old swimmer and helped keep him above water by grabbing onto his shorts.

“I rolled him onto his back and told him to look to the sky and I’d get him in,” Hignutt said. “I said ‘I don’t know you, you don’t know me, but I got you.'”

He got the man to shore, rolled him onto his stomach and had his cousin, Timothy Smith, watch him as he entered the water. He tried to swim back toward the two brothers, but “lost sight of them.”

Hignutt retreated to shore to catch his breath, at which point a 20-year-old woman, Kevin George’s girlfriend, entered the water “hysterically,” Hignutt said.

“The current swept her in,” he said. “She was above water but in distress. I got her back in.”

The State has a Rich History of Unusual Place Names

In a 2014 article, the News Journal outlined how the name of the Murderkill River in southern Kent County is tied in with the region’s Dutch past.

Delaware Heritage Commission Chair Dick Carter told the outlet, “‘Murderkill’ is taken from the original Dutch for Mother River.”

Mother is “moeder” in Dutch, and river is “kill.”

The article, and a later article from the Journal, outlines the history behind other Delaware place names, Slaughter Beach, Slaughter Creek, and Whorekill. Whorekill “was originally Hoornkill and meant Hoorn River – named after Hoorn, Holland, the town from which some of the original Swaanendael settlers came.”

‘Slaughter Creek’ derives from the early Delmarva family name ‘Slaughter,’ and “not from some terrible massacre.” The Delmarvas were “among the early English settlers in the area,” Carter said.

In 2019, parts of the Murderkill river turned blood red when the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Food and Drug Administration experimented with dye to understand how “a wastewater spill upstream might impact shellfish in the Delaware Bay.”

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