ASHEVILLE, NC (WSPA) – The wife of a Sumter man who died while tubing on the French Broad River in Asheville Tuesday told 7News her husband had a medical episode before he drowned.

The Asheville Fire Department says 63-year-old Lawrence Ham fell out of the tube around 4:00pm Tuesday near the 400 block of Riverside Drive.

When firefighters arrived they found bystanders administering CPR to the victim in the middle of the river.

A raft was used to get the man to shore before he was taken to Mission Hospital where he died.

In a phone interview Wednesday, Holly Ham said she, her husband, and son-in-law had rented tubes from Zen Tubing.

Ham said her husband opted not to wear a life jacket before they headed down the river.

Brad Luhn was bussing tables at The Salvage Station on Riverside Drive, which sits on the edge of the French Broad, when he heard frantic screams coming from the area where customers dine on benches overlooking the water. 

Luhn said two customers had noticed a man’s body face down on the opposite side of the river and rushed in to help. 

“By the time I got down there. those two guys were already racing out into the water to go retrieve the victim,” said Luhn. 

While 911 was called, the two men described by Luhn as “regular customers” tried to save the man by administering CPR. 

A swift water rescue team with the Asheville Fire Department arrived and tried to revive the man but could not. 

The owner at Zen Tubing, Heath White, told 7News anyone over the age of 14 is advised to wear and is offered a life jacket but there is no requirement for adults. 

Holly Ham said her husband suffered with asthma and COPD. 

She said the doctor’s at Mission Hospital informed her his cause of death was drowning.