WEST ASHLEY SC (WCSC) - The Charleston County Coroner's Office says an alligator was involved in the death of an elderly woman who was reported missing from a senior living center in West Ashley.
Coroner Rae Wooten said on Friday the cause of death of 90-year-old Bonnie Walker was "multiple sharp and blunt force injuries" and the manner has been ruled as accidental.
Walker was reported missing on Wednesday from the Brookdale Therapy on Charlie Hall Boulevard, and her body was found hours later from a retention pond behind the facility.
Wooten said Walker's injuries are consistent with those which could be inflicted by an alligator.
"Our investigation has confirmed that an alligator was involved in the decedent's death," Wooten said in a statement."There is no indication of an "attack", but rather it is likely that the decedent slipped, fell down a steep embankment, or otherwise landed in the water, attracting the attention of the alligator."
Authorities say the investigation is continuing.
Robert McCullough with DNR said he believes it is the first alligator related death in state history, and the way Walker was killed is "very rare."
Earlier on Friday, a spokesman for DNR said a gator was pulled early Friday morning from a retention bond behind Brookdale Therapy.
There are signs at the pond warning there are gators. In this case, investigators say the signs wouldn't have made a difference.
Sam Chappelear with DNR said officers pulled the gator from the pond and believe killed the elderly woman. Chappelear participated in the necropsy.
"We opened it up and we were sure we had the right gator," Chappelear said. "Any splashing in the water is going to attract a gator, that's what they go to, they'll go investigate. They're an opportunistic feeder."
Walker's body was recovered by the Charleston Police Dive Team. Dispatch received a call about the missing woman about 7:40 a.m. on Wednesday.
According to DHEC officials, they have received four complaints about the facility in the past two years.
DHEC released the following statement on Wednesday:
Brookdale Charleston has notified us of a serious incident that occurred at the facility this morning and we have initiated an investigation.
When a serious incident occurs at a facility that we regulate, we initiate an investigation into the incident to see if the facility violated any licensing standards and regulations. After DHEC inspectors complete their investigation, we make our findings available to the public.
We have received four complaints about this facility in the past two years. Those complaints involved allegations of under-staffing, poor sanitation, and abuse. Three of those complaints were investigated. The most recent complaint was received this month and is scheduled to be investigated as well.