Beaufort News

Beaufort man collapses while sailing

A 61-year-old Beaufort man died Monday afternoon after sailing in the Beaufort River.

Richard Williams collapsed and fell in shallow water while attempting to pull his boat out of the river near the Beaufort Yacht and Sailing Club, according to accounts.

Williams was taken by ambulance to Beaufort Memorial Hospital around 2:30 p.m. where he was pronounced dead, said Beaufort County Coroner Ed Allen.

A cause of death is pending and an autopsy has been ordered at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, Allen said.

Williams had been racing an MC-Scow during a Labor Day regatta and suffered what eyewitnesses said might have been a heart attack, said Andy Kinghorn, vice commodore of the sailing club.

Kinghorn, who also participated in the regatta, did not see what happened, but others who had seen Williams collapse described to Kinghorn what they saw, he said.

Kinghorn said Monday was a physically demanding yet good day for sailing, with 15 mph winds on the river.

"It was ideal for those who love sailing, but it's a demanding sport and with winds like that, it can make it difficult to control the boat," he said.

Williams was a board member of the sailing club, according to its website.

"He was always pleasant and loved sailing. He was a super guy," Kinghorn said. "This is a huge loss for the club, his family and the community. The club was very somber. Everyone was shocked and saddened at what happened."

In other boating incidents in Beaufort County over the weekend, low tide stranded a two groups for hours on Saturday and Sunday.

A family of five from Aiken out on a fishing trip became stuck on a mud flat at low tide after launching from a landing on St. Helena Island on Saturday afternoon.

The family - a mother and father and children ages 14, 12 and 6 - got stuck around 4:30 p.m. Their boat wasn't equipped with electronic navigation or a marine radio, but the family used a cellphone to call 911, said Paul Fields, spokesman for Fripp Island Sea Rescue, which responded.Fields said Beaufort County dispatchers were able to find the family using a global positioning chip inside the phone.

"It's accurate within 100 feet and it's worth its weight in gold," he said.

Fortunately, the family had enough food and water to wait for the tide to lift the boat, Field said.

"They were in no danger and were in good spirits. Finally, at about 11 p.m., they floated off and followed one of our boats to Fripp Island," he said. "They were about 100 feet from water. There's not much you can do, and we wanted them to stay in the boat because of the danger of walking in mud and getting cut by oysters."

In the other boating incident, a 57-year-old Bluffton woman was cut by oyster shells.

She and two other members of her party became stranded on an oyster bed in Calibogue Sound near Bluffton on Sunday evening, according to the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office.

The woman didn't heed advice to stay in the boat and walked through the oyster bed to a marine patrol officer. By the time she reached the officer's boat, she was bleeding from her hands, arms, legs and feet, according to the incident report.

She was taken to the C.C. Haigh Jr. Landing on Pinckney Island, then to the Hilton Head Hospital emergency room, where she was treated and released.

The other two members of her party stayed in the boat and waited until the tide rose to get off the oyster bed, according to the sheriff's report.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead.

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