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Missing teen’s boyfriend shares details of Beaufort County boat crash as search continues

Search for missing teen boater on Parris Island continues

S.C. Department of Natural Resources and local agencies are searching for a female boater who went missing after the boat she was on crashed into a bridge early Sunday morning.
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S.C. Department of Natural Resources and local agencies are searching for a female boater who went missing after the boat she was on crashed into a bridge early Sunday morning.

The boyfriend of a 19-year-old woman missing after a boat crash off Parris Island early Sunday morning said he tried to save her in the moments after the crash.

Anthony Cook said he and Mallory Beach were passengers on a boat with others returning from an oyster roast when the vessel crashed. He said he clung to a piling and called for Beach and went in the water looking for her but conditions became too dangerous with the cold and swift current.

“I knew if I didn’t turn back then, I wouldn’t make it,” said Cook, who was wearing a white sling while waiting with other friends and family near the site Monday.

The search was paused for a second time Monday at nightfall. It will resume by 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Rescue boats, dive teams and a Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office helicopter searched the area near where the boat crashed about 2 a.m. Sunday in Archers Creek near the gate to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. Beach remains missing, and other passengers, including Cook, were hurt.

The search is focused on the area of the crash and will systematically move out from there, S.C. Department of Natural Resources Capt. Robert McCullough said.

Rescuers are still hoping Beach will be found alive, he said Monday morning, but the likelihood the search becomes a recovery effort is increasing.

“The problem is we don’t have an exact location — it doesn’t look like a big area until you try to start searching the bottom, and it’s a huge area,” McCullough said. “The other problem is with the fast-moving water, depending on the person, you could get pulled out a long way if you’re struggling or fighting or have a life jacket on.”

DNR officers are investigating the circumstances of the crash, McCullough said. Six people were in the boat, officials said Sunday.

Cook said the group had traveled from the Chechessee area to an oyster roast Saturday evening, later docked in downtown Beaufort and was on the way back when the crash occurred.

At one point on the return trip, there was a dispute among others on the boat over who should be driving, Cook said.

He said he was sitting in the floor of the boat holding Beach in his lap with both facing the back of the boat, and neither wearing life jackets when the vessel struck something.

A Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office police report says the 17-foot Sea Hunt struck a piling on the bridge. It says the boat “was turned right” and beached itself at the base of the bridge.

Cook said he blacked out after impact and was on the other side of the bridge when he regained consciousness. He swam to grab a piling while yelling for Beach, then swam to the other side of the bridge and continued calling for her, Cook said.

He later climbed to a bank, removed his clothes and went back into the water to keep searching. The cold and swift-moving water forced him back to shore, he said.

Cook said he suffered a dislocated shoulder and was treated at the hospital Sunday night. Another person in the boat broke his jaw and required surgery at a Charleston hospital, he said.

Vehicles lined the shoulder of the causeway to Parris Island on Monday morning as family and friends gathered as close to rescue efforts as law enforcement allowed. Someone brought hot food at lunchtime and metal chairs for those waiting.

U.S. Coast Guard boats and local fire departments were assisting in the search.

The police report does not say who was driving the boat. A portion of the report has been redacted.

Stephen Fastenau covers northern Beaufort County as a reporter for The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet, where he has worked since 2010 and been recognized with state and national awards. He studied journalism and political science at the University of South Carolina in Columbia and lives in Beaufort.
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