Sixty-seven-year-old HIV/AIDS researcher Charles van der Horst, M.D., disappeared on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River near the George Washington Bridge on June 14, 2019, during a 120-mile race, the New York Post reports. The researcher disappeared at about 3:10 p.m. during the second-to-last stage of the 8 Bridge River Swim.
Organizers call the event the "longest marathon swim in the world." The marathon began Saturday, June 8, at the Rip Van Winkle Bridge in Catskill, New York, and had a different stage every day except Wednesday.
According to the Durham Herald-Sun, van der Horst was an experienced swimmer who swam varsity at Duke University, which he graduated from in 1974. Van der Horst was a retired professor of medicine emeritus at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine who worked on clinical trials and as a global health consultant.
"Dr. Charles van der Horst was a passionate and dedicated researcher, clinician, and colleague during his many years at UNC. He was recognized as a leader in the research and treatment of HIV/AIDS, in North Carolina and worldwide," a statement from the UNC School of Medicine 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."
Van der Horst was an internationally known AIDS researcher and activist who participated in Moral Monday demonstrations. Moral Mondays are protests originated by the progressive religious left to advocate for morality in politics.
The Herald-Sun reports that van der Horst joined the movement after North Carolina state lawmakers rejected Medicaid expansion. He was one of over 900 protesters arrested at a single North Carolina protest in 2013; van der Horst was convicted of second-degree trespassing.