Tragic ending to search for missing boater

5 mins read

From staff reports

The search for a woman missing since a boating accident in the early hours of Feb. 25 came to a tragic conclusion Sunday afternoon, when the body of 19-year-old Mallory Beach was found in the Broad River near Habersham subdivision just west of the Broad River Bridge.  

An autopsy confirmed Beach died of blunt force trauma to the head from the boating accident and drowning. 

Volunteers Mike Szucs, left, and Mike Sackman go over their search plan before setting out in the Beaufort River on Saturday, March 2.  Sackman was just part of the flotilla of volunteers to help find Mallory Beach, 19, who had been missing following a boating accident on Sunday, Feb. 24 in Archers Creek, a small cut between Battery Creek and Broad River. In the background is one of Beaufort Water Search and Rescue’s boats.

The search for Beach began in earnest after the boat she was riding in with five friends hit a group of pylons near the bridge on Archer’s Creek near Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island around 2 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 25. 

Throughout the week, Beaufort County waters were criss-crossed by boats manned by various organizations, as well as a flotilla of volunteers who showed up with their boats wanting to help.

Mike Sackman of Beaufort, when asked why he was getting ready to launch his boat prior to heavy rains on Saturday, said “for closure for the family.” Althought he didn’t know the family directly, Sackman said his son knew Beach and he felt compelled to help.

“I’m a Navy diver. I’ve done things like this before,” Sackman said. “I don’t want to interfere with the professionals. They are doing a great job, but the more eyes the better in this situation”.

Sackman, drawing on his naval expertise, divided the Beaufort River, Battery Creek, and Archer’s Creek parts of the Port Royal Sound into six search zones.

Sackman said he made a Facebook post on Thursday, Feb. 28, for anyone with a boat to come out and help search and quickly received 11 commitments.

Beaufort Water Search and Rescue had its three boats out each day and had an airboat on standby for searching the marsh, if needed, according to First Mate David Refosco. Refosco said members of Fripp Island Search and Rescue were also assisting.

Other volunteers like Lottie Campenella assisted in the search efforts without a boat. Campanella and a few friends started the Citizen Angel page on Facebook to help the volunteers at a small stand near the Chechessee boat ramp. 

“People want to help out,” Campanella said as one woman from Bluffton turned off S.C. 170 to give them a cash donation. “We made enough money in just a couple days to give the searchers gift bags containing sunscreen, bug spray and other items one might need on the water.” Campenella also said they included a pre-paid Visa card in each bag to help offset the cost of fuel for those not funded by state or county agencies.

Local restaurants also helped out with drinks and sandwiches, all free of charge to those searching for Beach.

One little girl also helping out said, “It’s like the whole place wants to help the family.”

Photo at top: A group of local volunteers got together to form the Citizen Angel group. According to organizer, Lottie Campenella, the group collected nearly $2,500 to be used to help offset some of the cost incurred by other volunteers searching for Mallory Beach. The proceeds were used to purchase snacks, food and drinks, supplies, and pre-paid Visa cards to cover fuel costs for volunteers spending hours and days assisting in the search. From left are: Jessica Webb, Jim and Nickís Barbecue; Brooklyn Hussman, Gilligan’s Seafood; Lottie Campenella, event organizer; Aryanna Hussman, Gilligan’s; Erick Swansen, volunteer; and Alyssa Hussman, Gilligan’s. Photos by Bob Sofaly.

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