S.C. Department of Natural Resources officers did not administer or offer sobriety tests to two boaters identified as possible drivers during a fatal boat accident in Beaufort County.
Beach was one of six individuals on the boat. The other five boaters also had injuries, police reports show.
The driver was narrowed to one of two people at the scene, a police report from the Port Royal Police Department says. Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office officials said this was determined from information gathered by responding officers on the scene.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Island Packet
The Port Royal report also said all five of the boaters appeared to be “grossly intoxicated”.
DNR officials previously said alcohol was found on the boat but tests weren’t administered because they didn’t know who the driver was. They said testing more than one person could result in the case being thrown out if charges were brought.
Robert Kittle, spokesman for the S.C. Office of the Attorney General, said he couldn’t speak about specific cases but in general a police officer can “offer” sobriety tests to more than one individual if there is a question about who is driving.
“There is nothing prohibiting tests on two people,” Kittle said.
An investigation would, in the end, have to prove that one of the two individuals was driving.
If arrested, citizens have the right to refuse offered sobriety tests for boating, per state code. The person’s license must be suspended for a 180-day period, if they refuse. The officer must include grounds for believing the arrested person was under the influence of alcohol or drugs or a combination while driving.
DNR spokesman Capt. Robert McCullough said Tuesday that tests were not offered because one of the individuals was in surgery and another would not speak with investigators.
McCullough also said no one on the boat was tested for underage drinking.
He said this is because the law in South Carolina is “possession”.
“We didn’t have to test,” McCullough said. He said it was clear alcohol was on the boat.
Any charges for any boaters would come at the end of the investigation, McCullough said.
There are ways investigators can prove sobriety in cases where tests were not given at the scene, Ron Replogle, National Enforcement Initiative Manager for Mother’s Against Drunk Driving, said Tuesday. He would not talk about the specific case but in general.
Blood records from hospitals can be subpoenaed, Replogle said. He said officers can also testify with their observations.
Physical evidence could also be used, in some cases, said Replogle, who also retired from the Missouri State Troopers as a colonel in 2015.
“Certain blood in certain areas could indicate where people were in a boat,” Replogle said.
The 17-foot boat Beach was on crashed at about 2 a.m. into a bridge that crosses Archers Creek near a causeway leading to the gate of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.
The boat was registered to Alexander Murdaugh.