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Boaters ‘grossly intoxicated’ at Beaufort Co. crash scene, report says. Teen still missing

All five of those injured when a boat crashed into a bridge near Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island early Sunday morning appeared to be “grossly intoxicated” when law enforcement arrived on the scene, according to a Port Royal Police Department report.

Responding officers narrowed the possible driver of the boat to two of those passengers, the police report said. The S.C. Department of Natural Resources is now handling the investigation.

Mallory Beach, 19, was ejected from the boat and remains missing.

All six people aboard the boat had been drinking alcohol, according to a the police report, which was released Friday to The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet in response to an open-records request.

“I observed that all of the passengers were grossly intoxicated,” Port Royal Police Sgt. Steven Reynard wrote.

Investigators have not determined who was driving the boat, said S.C. Department of Natural Resources Capt. Robert McCullough, whose agency is leading the search and the crash investigation.

The newspapers are not yet identifying everyone aboard because no charges have been filed.

Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office deputies on scene couldn’t initially determine who was driving the boat but the driver was later narrowed to one of two people, according to the Port Royal police report.

Asked how officers made that determination, Sheriff’s Office Capt. Bob Bromage said only that responding officers gathered initial information from those on scene and the investigation had been turned over to DNR.

When first-responders arrived at the crash site, one person was in the boat bleeding from the hand and four other people were on the bank, according to a Sheriff’s Office report.

McCullough declined to say whether DNR investigators believe the driver to be one of two people. He did say two people aboard the boat had retained attorneys and that one could have been the driver.

By the time DNR officers arrived, the boaters had been transported to the hospital, McCullough said. At some point while officers were at the hospital, attorneys arrived, he said.

Port Royal Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office were assisting DNR and did not conduct sobriety tests on scene, spokesmen for both agencies said.

Providing medical care to the injured boaters is the first concern, Sheriff’s Office Capt. Bob Bromage said.

DNR didn’t conduct sobriety tests because the driver couldn’t be determined and testing multiple people would likely result in a case being thrown out if charges were brought, McCullough said.

The vessel, a 17-foot center console that DNR said is registered to Alexander Murdaugh, had a large split in the hull and blood in the main compartment, the Port Royal report said.

Volunteers and law enforcement crews continue to search waterways for Beach. The search will continue until she is found but dive teams might eventually stop if they feel they have covered all areas possible.

The search now includes a type of sonar allowing divers to see more clearly through the murky water of Archers Creek near Parris Island, McCullough said.

Divers have two hand-held devices that show the creek bed and can record images and transmit to laptop computers. Another sonar device is being towed by a boat.

“It’s like shining a light in a room,” McCullough said.

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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