Boating death of South Carolina teen remains a mystery

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Beaufort County Bridge, where Melanie Beach went missing.

Beaufort County Bridge, where Melanie Beach went missing.

The boating death last month of a South Carolina teenager remains a mystery, as authorities are unsure who was driving the boat when it crashed into a Beaufort County bridge.

The Island Packet reported that two suspects involved in the crash and death of Mallory Beach have refused to speak to authorities.

“We have made contact with their attorneys,” Capt. Robert McCullough, a spokesperson for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, told the paper. “We are trying to work that out.”

Beach, 19, was tossed from the boat after it crashed into the bridge near Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. Five other occupants on the boat were injured.

The Hampton County teen was missing for a week before her body was found about 5 miles from the crash site.

Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett A. Wilson told the paper there is nothing authorities can do to make a suspect talk. “People have a Fifth Amendment right to not talk to you,” Wilson told the paper. “If they talk and lie, they can get themselves in trouble.”

McCullough had previously said “charges are very possible” in the case, according to the paper. “Anything from reckless homicide down,” McCullough told the paper. “There are a lot of possible charges.”

Reckless homicide for boating accidents in South Carolina 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.

Officials said that sobriety tests were not offered or administered to any occupants. One of the suspected drivers had an attorney present directly after the crash and the other was in surgery, said officials.

When asked about felony boating under the influence charges, McCullough told the paper it could still be “an option,” adding, “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.”

McCullough told the paper he could not speculate if an investigation might yield a boating under the influence charge without sobriety tests.

Beach, a former University of South Carolina student, was remembered “as kind and an avid animal rescuer,” according to the paper. 

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