MONCKS CORNER, SC (WCSC) - In the last four years, there have been 26 drownings in Berkeley County, of that number, at least eight have been in the Tailrace Canal in Moncks Corner, according to the County Coroner.
Berkeley County Coroner Bill Salisbury, who is also the Chief of the Rescue Squad, said the most recent case is that of 15-year-old Donovan "Deuce" Smalley II, of Goose Creek.
Salisbury said the County Rescue Squad along with the dive team from the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office were called to the Dennis Boat Landing off Highway 52 shortly after 7 p.m. Sunday for a reported drowning.
Smalley's body was found around 10 p.m.
"If I could save one parent from feeling like I do right now, that would be great," said Donovan Smalley, Deuce's father. "I understand it was his first jump in the water… and that was it."
Deuce's family is still trying to comprehend what happened.
According to his father, Deuce was supposed to go out on a boat with his friends and adults, but those plans changed, and instead, he went swimming in the Tailrace Canal with his buddies.
"[I was out there] a long time ago, in a boat," Donovan said. "I didn't know the current was like that, and I've heard things here and there, but I wasn't concerned because he was supposed to be in a boat."
Salisbury said the area underneath the Highway 52 bridge sees a lot of action, especially by teenagers. On any given weekend you can find them on the sandy beach, and climbing up rocks leading to the bridge support beams where people tend to dive and/or jump off into the canal.
"You'll notice on the bank, up there on the edge of the woods there, there's a trail that they walk," Salisbury said. "The current was swift… he [Smalley] was going downstream, trying to swim back. His buddy jumped in tried to rescue him, and he almost drowned too."
"I don't want anybody to have to go through something like this," said Portia Smalley, Deuce's mother. "God blessed us with him, but evidently God needed him more. But had that place not been like that…"
"Just stay away from there," Donovan said. "How many more lives is this place going to have to take before we keep kids from going out there?"
Many ideas have been proposed by the rescue squad, law enforcement, Santee Cooper and SCDOT, however, none have gone into action.
"I think if you had rocks and stuff… people wouldn't come here," Salisbury said. "If they didn't come here, they wouldn't climb up and jump off. That's my opinion, and my solution that would make the beach inaccessible."
"That river is not meant for swimming, it's meant for boating," Portia said.
The Smalley's said Deuce was a talented young man, with great ambition.
"He was smart, played guitar, very well, and sang," Donovan said. "He was going places."
"He had just formed a band," Portia added.
Now just days after his death, the family said the friends who were with Deuce are working on creating a memorial piece to place on the trail to let others know how dangerous the location is.
"They told me they won't every go back there," Portia said. "They're going to have a metal cross put up, with his name on it and hung up on a tree so that it's in plain sight."
Salisbury added the rescue squad responds at least once a year to that exact location for a reported drowning, mostly due to young adults jumping off the support beams of the bridge.
A spokesperson with DOT said it's up to law enforcement to patrol that area since it's a no trespassing location.