Cell phone, life jacket made difference between life and death on Lake Moultrie

Chief Bill Salisbury says the rescue team wears these life jackets whne responding to incidents (Source: Live 5)
Chief Bill Salisbury says the rescue team wears these life jackets whne responding to incidents (Source: Live 5)

BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - The Berkeley County Rescue Squad is commending the preparedness of a boater who faced a near-deadly incident this weekend.

Chief Bill Salisbury said the squad was notified of an overturned boat on Lake Moultrie at 9 a.m. Sunday.

Bennie Bunch, 60, of Ladson, was fishing in a bass tournament when his 21-foot bass boat filled with water.

"The wind was very high on Lake Moultrie, the waves were very rough," Salisbury said. "We had white caps."

The Rescue Squad responded to the lake with assistance from the Department of Natural Resources, Lake Moultrie Fire Department, and Moncks Corner Rural Fire Department.

"I think a white cap came on his boat and once he got one wave on his boat it just filled with water," Salisbury said.

The Chief said Bunch was fishing near the middle of the lake where conditions were vastly different from other areas.

"The tournament was out near the Divergent Canal, in Cross," Salisbury said. "That area of the lake was pretty calm."

Salisbury said with winds blowing from Cross to Moncks Corner, that's what made conditions a bit rough along the Pinopolis shoreline.

"He wanted to go to that special fishing hole that he had, because he knew he could catch that big one," he said. "He took a chance and it almost cost him his life."

Bunch was found clinging to the front of the boat, all while in the cold water.

The Chief estimates the average temperature was 53 degrees Fahrenheit.

"His [body] temperature was 92 degrees at that point," Salisbury said. "So he was starting to feel the effects of hypothermia."

The Chief says he doesn't think the man could have lasted much longer in water, but says having a cell phone and a life jacket on helped him survive.

"You put this [life jacket] on and you don't even know it's on," Salisbury said. "They save lives. I don't know why a person wouldn't want to wear a life jacket."

Bunch was taken to Trident Medical Center to get checked out.

With a warm holiday weekend approaching, Salisbury hopes other boaters will be as prepared as Bunch in the case of an emergency.

Salisbury, who's also the Berkeley County Coroner, said hypothermia sets in when your body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bunch is said to be in good condition.

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