Passages: Charles Van Der Horst, 67, Dies in Hudson River

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Former Duke Swimming and Diving captain Dr. Charles van der Horst passed away Friday at the age of 67.

Van der Horst entered the 120-mile multi-day swimming race down the Hudson River and went missing during the second to last stage of the event.

According to the New York Daily News, first responders aided the Coast Guard in the search for van der Horst and the search was suspended late in the afternoon. He was participating in the 8 Bridges Race, which began last Saturday at the Rip Van Winkle Bridge between the towns of Hudson and Catskill.

Event organizers cancelled the seventh and final stage of the race on Saturday, which was to run between the George Washington Bridge and the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge.

Duke Career

A member of the Duke men’s swimming and diving program from 1970-74, van der Horst specialized in the butterfly and distance freestyle events. He served as a captain for the Blue Devils during the 1973-74 campaign.

Following his collegiate career in the pool, van der Horst later took up masters swimming, competing in local and national U.S. Masters Swimming meets. He was an accomplished marathon runner and triathlon competitor, and was participating in the 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim in New York City when he passed away.

A resident of Chapel Hill, van der Horst retired from the UNC School of Medicine, where he served as a professor of medicine and infectious diseases. He was regarded as a leader in the area of HIV and AIDS research and treatment, continuing his work after retirement. van der Horst was also respected for his role as a social justice advocate.

Funeral services for Dr. van der Horst will take place Tuesday at 11 a.m. at Beth El Synagogue, located at 1004 Watts Street in Durham. For more information, visit

Duke Swimming and Diving contributed to this report.