Justin McNeil

Justin McNeil is missing after going for a swim in the fast-moving Highwood river on Sunday. (Courtesy McNeil family)

The family of a 19-year-old man who was swept down a fast-flowing river southeast of Calgary is criticizing police search efforts.

Justin McNeil was with four friends at a popular swimming spot near the closed Nature’s Hideaway Family Campground on Sunday evening. He went for a swim in the Highwood River near its merge point with the Bow River.

He was almost immediately caught up in the current, police said.

Okotoks and Turner Valley RCMP began a search after getting the call Sunday night, but McNeil's cousin, Melanie Murrin, says nothing has happened since then.

"Search and rescue is holding back." she said. "They want to come out and help but they cannot because the RCMP refuse to contact them."

RCMP say they are doing the best they can. They used a drone to search the area on Tuesday morning, and a search by helicopter is planned for Wednesday morning.

Police are reminding people to use caution around rivers and their banks. After recent downpours the water is cold, fast-moving and filled with silt and debris.