The S.C. Department of Natural Resources doesn’t know who was driving a boat that crashed into a Beaufort County bridge killing teen Mallory Beach two weeks ago, and their two suspects aren’t talking, officials say.
“We have made contact with their attorneys,” SCDNR spokesman Capt. Robert McCullough said Monday. “We are trying to work that out.”
Nineteen-year-old Beach was ejected from the boat when it crashed into a bridge crossing Archers Creek near Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island at about 2:20 a.m. on Feb. 24. The five other occupants on the boat were injured.
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There is nothing law enforcement agencies can do to make suspects talk, Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett A. Wilson said Thursday. The Ninth Judicial Circuit oversees Berkeley and Charleston counties.
“People have a Fifth Amendment right to not talk to you,” Wilson said. “If they talk and lie, they can get themselves in trouble.”
McCullough previously said “charges are very possible” in the case.
“Anything from reckless homicide down,” McCullough answered when asked about the type of charges by an Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette reporter Monday. “There are a lot of possible charges.”
Reckless homicide for boating accidents carries a fine between $1,000 and $5,000 or a sentence of imprisonment for not more than 10 years, according to state code.
A Port Royal Police Department report says all five boaters appeared to be “grossly intoxicated.”
Alcohol also was found on the boat, SCDNR officials have said.
Yet, sobriety tests were not offered or administered to any occupants, SCDNR officials previously said. They have said the tests weren’t administered because one of the suspected drivers had an attorney directly after the crash and the other was in surgery.
When asked about felony boating under the influence charges, McCullough said, “I guess that could still be an option. Worst-case scenario would be murder. That would be the max charge that would be available but I don’t know if the evidence would show that.”
Someone convicted of felony boating under the influence faces $5,000 to $25,000 in fines and mandatory imprisonment no less than 30 days and no more than 25 years.
McCullough said he wasn’t able to speculate if an investigation could yield a boating under the influence charge without sobriety tests.
The 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone has asked to be removed from the investigation because three occupants on the boat are related to employees of his office.
One of those employees is Randolph Murdaugh III, the former solicitor. Murdaugh continues to work under contract for the office, trying criminal cases.
The 14th Circuit includes Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton, Colleton and Allendale counties.
A prosecuting agency has yet to be assigned to the case, McCullough said Monday. He said there isn’t reason for agencies to be involved prior to charges being filed.
McCullough said “movement” could come in the case this week. He would not clarify further. He said it is unlikely there will be charges of any sort this week.
Beach, a former University of South Carolina student, was buried by family and friends on Thursday. She is remembered as always being in a good mood and an avid animal rescuer.