By Mindy Lucas and Mike McCombs
A three-vehicle collision on the J.E. McTeer Bridge Saturday morning took the lives of nearly an entire family and has left the Lowcountry reeling.
Tikia Lashay Doe, 36, and her three young sons, Jashawn Hawkins, 16, Alonzo Houston, 6, and Cameron Perry, 3, all of Burton, died after the mini-van they were traveling in flipped over the side of the bridge and plummeted into the Beaufort River below.
The four were pronounced dead at the scene – their names released Saturday by the Beaufort County Coroner’s Office.
In addition, Doe was eight months pregnant, according to an accident report released by the Beaufort Police Department.
The driver of the family’s vehicle, later identified as Doe’s husband by the Port Royal Police Department, survived the crash. His name has not been released.
The incident, which occurred just after 11 a.m., shut down both sides of the bridge for several hours on Saturday after the family’s Dodge Caravan, a Ford F-150 and a Chevy Malibu were involved in a collision, according to a news release issued by the Port Royal Police Department.
The vehicles were traveling across the bridge toward Lady’s Island when the crash occurred, the release stated.
First responders with the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island Fire Department’s Marine Unit, Beaufort Water Search and Rescue, the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office dive team and civilian boaters responded to the scene and were able to recover the victims from the submerged vehicle.
Doe’s husband was taken to Beaufort Memorial Hospital and later released.
The driver of the Ford F-150 was also taken to the hospital with minor injuries and later released. The driver of the Chevy Malibu was not injured and released at the scene, the press release stated.
Emergency crews used a crane to pull the family’s mini-van from the water, Port Royal Police Chief Alan Beach said.
An autopsy performed on Monday revealed the family members died from drowning, Beaufort County Chief Deputy Coroner David Ott said.
The fatal crash has rocked the Beaufort County School District, where Jashawn was a 10th-grader at Battery Creek High School and Alonzo was in first grade at Robert Smalls International Academy, Beaufort County School District spokeswoman Candace Bruder confirmed on Monday.
“We’ve been deeply saddened to hear about the passing of two of our students, Jashawn Hawkins and Alonzo Houston,” the school district said in a statement. “The principals and staffs at Battery Creek High and Robert Smalls International Academy will miss them greatly, and their family continues to be in our thoughts and prayers. A special team of counselors has been assigned to both schools to assist any students who need help as they work through their personal feelings and grief.”
Doe’s daughter, Ziara Jackson, a sixth-grader at Robert Smalls, was visiting her grandmother at the time of the crash, according to a Go Fund Me account established for her.
Students and staff members at Robert Smalls International Academy were planning to wear blue on Wednesday, Alonzo’s favorite color, and green on Thursday, the first grader’s second favorite color. On Friday, staff and students are planning to wear Spiderman-themed items, or red and blue, something Alonzo also loved.
In addition, Battery Creek High School will present Ziara with a purple quilt in honor of her family. Purple was her mother’s favorite color, Bruder said.
No other details have been released about the collision or its possible cause. The Port Royal Police Department and the South Carolina Highway Patrol are continuing to investigate.
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact Detective Jason Boggess at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mindy Lucas is the Beaufort reporter for The Island News and is a staff writer for Lowcountry Weekly. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Mike McCombs is the editor of The Island News and can be reached at TheIslandNews@gmail.com.