Driver in Hilton Head hit-and-run crash that killed Mercer still unknown

rlurye@islandpacket.comNovember 6, 2013 

The S.C. Highway Patrol is still searching for the driver who struck and killed a 34-year-old Hilton Head Island woman Sunday.

Jenny Mercer was walking on South Forest Beach Drive near Bayberry Lane at about 3:09 a.m. when she was hit by an eastbound vehicle, according to an incident report. Mercer was wearing dark clothing when she was hit, the report says. A paid obituary in Wednesday's newspaper said she was on her way to the beach to watch the solar eclipse.

Another driver found Mercer and called for help, the Highway Patrol said. There are no known witnesses or recordings of the incident.

Officers have followed several leads to identify the type of vehicle that struck Mercer, but they reported no new information Wednesday.

Sunday's crash was the first incident involving a vehicle and a pedestrian or bicyclist on South Forest Beach Drive in the past 12 months, according to Sgt. Robin McIntosh of the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office.

However, there were 20 such accidents on the south end of Hilton Head Island in that time, and half occurred on New Orleans Road or Pope Avenue, about a three-minute drive from the intersection where Mercer was killed.

Eleven of the 20 accidents resulted in injuries, according to the Sheriff's Office. None was fatal.

In another hit-and-run, Sea Pines security officers responded to a report of a biker injured when struck by an unknown driver at 3 p.m. Sept. 7 at the intersection of Tupelo Road and Lawton Drive.

Information about accidents before November 2012 was not available Wednesday afternoon.

No roads are safe for pedestrians, Sheriff P.J. Tanner said, but southern Hilton Head Island poses additional risks. Many roads there are narrow, not well-lit and in need of repairs, he said.

"Wide lanes of travel, good shoulders and appropriate lighting -- that's kind of what our recommendation is and always is," Tanner said. "But it's not something that is desired in most areas of Hilton Head, and that's their prerogative. That's their community."

Some South Forest Beach residents have asked the town and the state for more crosswalks in the area where Mercer was hit and to upgrade existing crosswalks to improve safety.

Town Councilman Bill Harkins, who sits on the town's Public Safety Committee, said earlier this week that more details of Sunday's hit-and-run are needed before town and state officials can properly assess what, if any, safety improvements are needed.

S.C. Department of Transportation district administrator Robert Clark has said he isn't aware of any planned improvements for South Forest Beach Road and thinks it is safe. However, he said state maintenance workers might inspect the road for "deficiencies" after it gets a completed accident report.

Map: Pedestrian and bicycle accidents, Nov. 2012-Nov. 5, 2013

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