Crime & Public Safety

Beaufort County Coroner identifies missing teen boater and gives cause of death

A body found Sunday near the Broad River boat landing was positively identified as missing boater Mallory Beach by the Beaufort County Coroner’s Office Monday afternoon.

An autopsy report from the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston states Beach died of drowning and secondary blunt force trauma to the head as a result of the vessel she was riding in hitting a bridge “dolphin,” Beaufort County Deputy Coroner David Ott said.

Ott said a “dolphin” is a grouping of pilings built around a bridge to protect it and help boaters navigate through the waterway.

Beach, 19, went missing Feb. 24 after the accident on Archers Creek near a causeway leading to the gate of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.

She was one of six people on the 17-foot boat registered to Alexander Murdaugh of Islandton, according to S.C. Department of Natural Resources spokesman Capt. Robert McCullough.

Her body was found in a marsh area about 1:45 p.m. Sunday by a boater, nearly 5 miles from where the accident happened.

Beach, of Hampton County, was the youngest of three sisters. Her sisters have previously said she was passionate about saving stray animals. This included re-homing multiple strays — both dogs and cats — she found near her home.

As many teen girls, she loved clothes, her sisters said. She was always bringing home bags of new clothes from the place she worked — It’s Retail Therapy boutique in Beaufort.

Her family has also described her as “always happy” and a Christian who “knows the Lord.”

All five of the other boaters in the accident appeared to be “grossly intoxicated” when officers arrived, a Port Royal Police Department report states.

DNR, which is leading the investigation, has said the department has yet to determine who was the driver of the accident.

Two of the boaters have retained lawyers, McCullough has previously said.

He said at some point while some of the boaters were at the hospital, lawyers arrived. Sobriety tests were not given because DNR could not immediately determine who the driver was, McCullough said. He said testing multiple people could result in a case being thrown out if charges were brought.

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.