Crime & Public Safety

Was alcohol a factor in Beaufort Co. boating accident? Officials are investigating

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 search for a 19-year-old who went overboard after an early morning boat crash off Parris Island on Sunday is transitioning to a recovery effort more than 48 hours after she went missing, authorities said.

Rescue boats and divers continued a search Tuesday morning for Mallory Beach, one of six people in the 17-foot center console when it crashed into a bridge piling in Archers Creek at about 2 a.m., S.C. Department of Natural Resources Capt. Robert McCullough said. Aircraft are also expected to participate in the search.

The search was paused at dark on Tuesday. SCDNR plans to restart the search by 8 a.m. Wednesday.

DNR continues to investigate the circumstances of the crash, McCullough said. Alcohol was on the boat but it’s not yet known whether it was a factor in the crash, he said.

When asked if anyone on the boat was tested for blood alcohol content via breathalyzer or bloodwork, McCullough responded, “Not that I’m aware of.”

Who was driving the boat at the time of the crash is also being investigated, he said. A Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office report doesn’t say who was driving the boat, and a portion is redacted.

Investigators have not talked to everyone on the boat because some have legal representation, McCullough said.

McCullough, a DNR spokesman, couldn’t immediately say which passengers are being represented by attorneys.

Beach’s family has asked for prayers from the community during the search.

She was described by family as “always happy,” and relatives said that “everybody loves being around her.”

As an employee at It’s Retail Therapy, the Hampton resident had connections to the Beaufort area.

Beach was known to have a weak spot for stray animals, Savannah Tuten, Beach’s older sister, said. She rescued multiple stray dogs and cats in recent years.

Tuten said Beach kept one dog but re-homed the rest of the animals.

Beach’s boyfriend, Anthony Cook, said Monday that the group was returning from an oyster roast when the crash occurred and had stopped on the way back to dock in downtown Beaufort and swing in the bench swings in Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. At one point, there was a dispute on the boat as to who should be driving, he said.

Cook said the “ones that were driving didn’t really need to be driving” and, at some point, the vessel took off. He said was sitting on the floor of the boat facing the back of the boat with Beach in his lap when the crash occurred.

After the boat hit the piling, it turned to the right and went aground under the bridge, according to the Sheriff’s Office report. Beach was thrown into the water, the report said.

Cook said Monday he went back in the water to search for Beach before returning to shore because of the conditions.

Four of the passengers were initially hospitalized with injuries including a cut hand and injured jaw, according the the report. Cook said he went to the hospital Sunday night with a dislocated shoulder.

Teresa Moss contributed to this story.

This story will be updated.

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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Teresa Moss is a crime and public safety reporter for The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette. She has worked as a journalist for 16-years for newspapers in Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas.
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