Family of teen killed in Lowcountry boating incident files wrongful death lawsuit

Published: Mar. 21, 2019 at 10:28 PM EDT
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BEAUFORT COUNTY, SC (WTOC) - The family of a teenager killed in a boating wreck in Beaufort County has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

The lawsuit names a group of four defendants, claiming they either sold or gave alcohol to two potential drivers of a boat that crashed into a bridge on Archers Creek last month. Nineteen-year-old Mallory Beach was killed as a result of the crash. She was one of six people on the boat when it crashed near Parris Island.

A Parker’s gas station and Luther’s Rare and Well Done, a restaurant off of Bay Street in Beaufort, are the two businesses named in the suit. It also names two people - Kristy and James Wood.

According to the lawsuit, Parker’s employees “knowingly and willfully sold alcohol to a minor and patrons under 21.”

Further, it said workers at Luther’s sold two of the minors alcohol, “despite their being underaged and intoxicated.”

The lawsuit accused the Woods of hosting a party that night where they “intentionally served alcoholic beverages.” It went on to say the Woods should’ve known the ages of the minors. The lawyer for Beach’s parents said the Woods let them leave with knowledge the minors would drive off in the boat.

Thursday, WTOC spoke to the Beach family attorney about the suit and what the hope it achieves.

The law office of Gooding and Gooding in Allendale, SC, is representing the family.

“Make no mistake about it, this doesn’t happen without alcohol.”

Attorney Mark Tinsley is working on the lawsuit, and tells us what message they hope the suit sends.

“What the family hopes is that Mallory’s death is not going to be...that somebody, some way...we won’t read about it in the paper or see it on your television station, but that somewhere along the way, somebody remembers that they can be held accountable for this exact thing, and they don’t let a child drive away after they’ve been served alcohol,” Tinsley said.

Tinsley applauded the work of the investigating agencies, like the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division for how thoroughly they’ve looked into the deadly accident, and everything leading up to it.

“This is a learning opportunity for a lot of people, and I hope that it at least open some people’s eyes that you could be Mallory, or you could be the driver, or you could be a victim," Tinsley said. "Completely unrelated, if you allow this kind of thing to happen, and hope that adults make responsible decisions. I mean, I’m not saying that other people involved aren’t responsible and aren’t going to be held responsible. Everyone is, I can assure you. We’re going to hold them all responsible.”

The lawyer said the defendants were “negligent, careless, reckless, grossly negligent, willful and wanton and acted intentionally at all times.”

Greg Parker, the founder and CEO of Parker’s, said in a statement:

“We take the responsibility of selling alcohol very seriously at Parker’s and have strict policies and procedures in place to make sure we sell alcohol only to individuals who have proof that they are of legal drinking age. Every member of the Parker’s team undergoes alcohol training, and we regularly send mystery shoppers to our stores to make sure team members are carding customers who purchase alcohol.”

When we went into Luther’s Rare and Well done on Thursday, they said since this is a pending investigation, they had no comment.

Kristy Wood is the principal of Brunson Elementary School in the Hampton County School District One, just north of the town of Hampton. The district’s superintendent, Ronald Wilcox, had this to say about the lawsuit:

“This was a tragic incident for our community, for which we are all sorry. We had been made aware by the principal that she was named as a defendant in an upcoming lawsuit. As the matter does not involve the school district per se, and there is some pending litigation, we cannot make comment.”

The superintendent says Wood will remain principal at Brunson Elementary.

We checked in with SC DNR, and the investigation is still ongoing. No criminal charges have been filed as of Thursday.

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