Woman's body pulled from ocean off Hilton Head

tbarton@beaufortgazette.comAugust 24, 2013 

A 67-year-old woman from Ecuador vacationing on Hilton Head Island with family apparently drowned Saturday afternoon.

Beaufort County deputy coroner David Ott said people walking the beach spotted Maddeline Raad's body floating in the water near beach marker 95 off Singleton Beach Road about 1:15 p.m. The beachgoers pulled her to shore and performed CPR until paramedics from the Town of Hilton Head Island Fire and Rescue Division arrived and took over.

She was pronounced dead at the scene, Ott said.

Family members said Raad had gone for a walk alone about 11:30 a.m., Ott said.

Raad was vacationing with her son, his wife and three grandchildren at Marriott's SurfWatch, Ott said.

Ott said it's unknown where Raad entered the water or what caused her drowning. Ott said she may have attempted to cross The Folly -- a creek that cuts across the beach between Singleton Beach and Burkes Beach roads.

"It's possible she was attempting to cross ... as the tide was going out and possibly lost her footing and got pushed out to the ocean," Ott said.

Raad's body was taken to the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston for an autopsy to determine the cause of death, he said.

There were no suspicious injuries on the body and foul play is not suspected, Ott said.

Lt. Glenn Zanelotti with the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office said no one reported seeing Raad in distress.

The names of the bystanders who found the body and of the victim's family were not immediately available Saturday evening. An attempt Saturday to reach the family was unsuccessful.

There was a low risk of rip currents at the time of the incident, with northeast winds averaging 10 to 15 mph, according to the Nation Weather Service in Charleston. The sea had 2-foot breakers and the water temperature was approximately 80 degrees.

"It looked like it was a pretty typical beach day," said weather service meteorologist Pete Mohlin.

"But, even if there was a low risk, there is always that possibility for rip currents, particularly if there's low spots or breaks in the sand bar and near manmade structures such as groins, jetties or piers," he said.

Alan Reece, general manager of Shore Beach Services -- whose lifeguards patrol Hilton Head' 13.5 miles of beach -- said Raad's body was found in an area where there is no lifeguard stationed. The surf was minimal, he said.

"Breakers were maybe a foot or less with a light chop in the water," Reece said. "There was nothing out of the ordinary that would have prompted us to put out caution flags."

He said two men pulled Raad from the water onto the beach where a group of women were waiting to assist with CPR.

"It's still speculation as to what really happened out there," he said.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom

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