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Chilling new details from 2019 boat crash that killed S.C. teen

Published: Aug. 12, 2021 at 6:39 PM EDT
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BEAUFORT CO., S.C. (WTOC) - The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources recently released new audio and video from the tragic 2019 boating accident that killed 19-year-old South Carolina woman Mallory Beach.

Paul Murdaugh, 19, was charged with Beach’s death. Those charges were dropped just six days ago. It comes after he and his mother were discovered shot and killed on one of the family’s estates in June.

Police said Murdaugh had been drinking the night of the wreck - February 24, 2019 - before he crashed his dad’s boat into the Archer’s Creek bridge near Parris Island. Now that the charges have been dropped, the DNR is sharing key details from its investigation. That includes surveillance video captured near the New Day Dock in Beaufort.

It shows some of Beach’s final moments, as the six teens - including Beach and Murdaugh - walk toward the boat authorities said Murdaugh was operating that night.

The DNR also released 911 dispatch audio that reveals some of the frantic moments after the crash. Connor Cook, one of the teens onboard the boat, made the call to police around 2:30 a.m. Here’s an abbreviated transcript of that conversation:

Cook: “Paul, what bridge is this?”

911 operator: “911, where’s your emergency?”

Cook: “We’re in a boat crash on Archer’s Creek... we have someone missing.”

911 operator: “Please send someone!”

911 operator: “We’re coming, we’re coming, we’re coming! ok?... who’s that in the background?”

Connor Cook: “There’s six of us, and one is missing.”

911 operator: “Who’s missing?”

Connor Cook: “A female. Mallory Beach is missing.”

Beaufort County dispatch calls also paint a picture of Mallory’s final moments.

Beaufort County Dispatch: “They were driving at a high rate of speed, in the water, in the boat. Female was sitting on her boyfriend’s lap. They hit the bridge. She is now missing.”

Beaufort Water Search and Rescue also described the condition of the boat after the crash:

Beaufort Water Search & Rescue: “The front left side, which would be the driver’s side, is split open from the nose all the way to the back. There’s a 6-foot gash where the boat actually came-apart at the seam.”

DNR officers took photos aboard the boat the next day showing coolers filled with drinks still on ice, along with empty bottles and cans left behind. Hours earlier, surveillance footage showed Paul Murdaugh buying alcohol - police say with a fake I.D. - at a Parker’s gas station in Ridgeland, South Carolina. More surveillance showed him ordering more alcohol at Luther’s Rare & Well Done - a bar in Beaufort.

After the crash, four of the five teens were rushed to Beaufort Memorial Hospital. A nurse stated Paul Murdaugh was, quote, “only wearing boxers and that he was grossly intoxicated and belligerent,” and that he appeared to be, “the most intoxicated and uncooperative of those involved.”

A blood test taken at the hospital around 4 a.m. showed Murdaugh had an ethanol level of 286.1 milligrams per deciliter in serum. The mayo clinic Laboratories’ web site explains that it converts such numbers to Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) by moving the decimal point over three places to the left. That would put Murdaugh’s BAC at .286, more than three times the legal limit.

Beach’s body was found a week later by another boater a few miles away at the Broad River Boat Landing. The coroner’s office said Beach died from drowning and blunt force trauma.

Mallory Beach’s family still has a civil lawsuit against the Murdaugh’s. WTOC will continue to follow that case.

You can read all of the documents released by the DNR here.

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