A Bluffton man has been identified as the victim of a fatal crash that happened late Tuesday on Buckwalter Parkway. The driver, who called police about the incident after leaving the scene, has not been charged.
Charmaine Anthony Warthern, 43, was killed when he was struck by the vehicle around 10 p.m., Beaufort County deputy coroner David Ott said Wednesday. Warthern was pronounced dead at the scene, Ott said. An autopsy will be performed at the Medical University of South Carolina on Thursday morning.
The Bluffton Police Department referred to the incident as a pedestrian that was hit and killed in a press release, and a traffic collision resulting in a fatality in the police report.
According to the report, officers arrived to find Warthern’s body partially in the roadway.
Dempsey Parrish, Warthern’s roommate, said the two were walking from Publix to their shared residence in the Woodbridge subdivision when the incident occurred. Parrish said he was walking on the bike path while Warthern was walking in the roadway, according to the report.
Bluffton Police department spokeswoman Joy Nelson said Parrish told officers Wednesday afternoon Warthern was “walking along the white line” between the bike path and the road, and was not in the center of the road.
Parrish was unable to provide exact details of the incident but told officers he dragged Warthern off the roadway and attempted to perform CPR until first responders arrived, according to the report.
“The evidence proves where the body was — even though it was dragged,” Nelson said. “It shows he was walking in the middle of the street.”
Parrish told officers the vehicle stopped after hitting Warthern but left the scene toward U.S. 278 on Buckwalter Parkway.
The report described Parrish’s behavior as “erratic” and noted he was “visibly upset as a result of the incident.” The report also noted an odor of alcohol.
Dempsey’s mother, Nita Parrish, said Wednesday morning her son did not yet wish to speak to a reporter.
The driver of the 2013 Ford Fusion that struck Warthern, told officers she was traveling in the left lane on Buckwalter Parkway heading toward the Woodbridge subdivision after leaving McDonald’s. Shortly after, she struck an unknown object.
Initially, she thought it was “some type of animal” because she didn’t see anything in the road. She put her hazard lights on and pulled to the side of the road. The report says she got out of her car and saw an unknown black male lying in the road. Then an unknown white male began yelling at her to “back the (expletive) up.”
She got back in her car to back up, and the white male attempted to open the passenger side door, where the driver’s 17-year-old daughter was sitting. “In fear for her safety,” the driver left and called police from her residence, according to the report.
“There wasn’t any reason to believe she was wrong,” Nelson said of the driver, noting she could not see Warthern because of his dark clothing.
Nelson said there is a South Carolina statute that says if a driver reports an accident immediately, he or she is protected by law, even if they leave the scene.
South Carolina statute 56-5-1210 states a driver of a vehicle involved in an accident that results in injury or death must immediately stop and remain at the scene. However, the person “may temporarily leave the scene to report the accident to the proper authorities,” the statute says.
Nelson said the driver did not return to the scene.
“As soon as she realized she hit someone, she pulled over and went home,” Nelson said. “Investigators questioned her at her home.”
Nelson said there are no cameras located where the incident happened.
Nita Parrish said her son disputes that Warthern was walking in the roadway. Warthern’s family also disputes that he was walking in the roadway.
Nita Parrish said said the two were walking on the bike path when the car crossed over the edge of the path, struck Warthern, rolled down the window briefly and sped off. The driver did not say anything, Parrish said.
She said her son was “hovering over” his roommate and was so in shock he could not remember what kind of vehicle it was or what the driver looked like.
“He was totally traumatized,” Parrish said. “That was his buddy and his roommate.”
Parrish said she drove to the scene to pick up her son.
Bluffton Police closed northbound lanes of Buckwalter Parkway from Woodbridge to Berkeley Place for about two hours. Nelson said the incident remains under investigation.
According to a news release from Nelson, the Collision Reconstruction Unit and detectives investigated the scene, took measurements and spoke to both parties. The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office and the S.C. Highway Patrol also responded to the incident.
Those with information about the incident are asked to call Detective Ryan Fazekus at 843-706-4550.