Crime & Public Safety

Who was driving the boat? DNR ‘thoroughly’ investigating Beaufort County boat crash, officials say

S.C. Department of Natural Resources has yet to determine who was driving a boat that crashed into a Beaufort County bridge early Sunday morning.

As the investigation continues, DNR also is leading a search effort for missing Hampton County teen Mallory Beach.

Beach, 19, was ejected from the boat when it struck the piling on a bridge that crosses Archers Creek near a causeway leading to the gate of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.

On Thursday evening, the fifth day of the search for Beach, remained unsuccessful.

Beach’s family has asked that anyone with a boat help search the Broad River and any inlets connected. They have asked searchers to stay away from Archers Creek where DNR is focused.

Six people were aboard a 17-foot boat — registered to Alexander Murdaugh of Islandton — when it crashed about 2 a.m.

As of Thursday, DNR had yet to speak with all the individuals on the boat, DNR Capt. Robert McCullough said.

“We have attempted to,” he said. “We haven’t because a couple of them have attorneys, and we haven’t been able to work that out.”

McCullough said one of the individuals on the boat had an attorney while at the hospital.

It is unknown if alcohol played a factor in the crash, McCullough has previously said. He has also previously said no sobriety tests were given to the boaters because it wasn’t clear who was driving.

Social media users have been sharing Snapchat videos that they claim show the boaters not long before the crash. The video appears to show one of the boaters driving.

McCullough said it is possible that the videos could be used in investigations.

“Usually the judge determines if something like that could be useable,” he said.

Commenters on social media have been critical of the DNR investigation and have been particularly vocal about DNR not yet knowing who the driver of the boat was and whether alcohol was a factor in the crash.

“We are going to do our job, and we are going to do it thoroughly. When information becomes available, we will have it,” McCullough said.

He said investigations into boating crashes can take a long time.

“There aren’t skid marks in the road that you can go back and look at for two weeks,” McCullough said. “Even right now, the water is a different level than it was last week and it will be a different level in an hour. Everything changes there.”

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.