Autopsies reveal new information in teens' deaths

Published: Oct. 29, 2012 at 12:32 AM EDT|Updated: Nov. 8, 2012 at 12:24 PM EST
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18-year-old Jake Ziegler and 17-year-old Ray Pierce (Source: WBTV)
18-year-old Jake Ziegler and 17-year-old Ray Pierce (Source: WBTV)
Scene where car was found in Wateree River in Kershaw County (Source: Jody Barr)
Scene where car was found in Wateree River in Kershaw County (Source: Jody Barr)

KERSHAW COUNTY, SC (WIS) - The autopsies for two missing North Carolina teens found on Sunday in a submerged car in the Wateree River near Interstate 20 are revealing new information.

A spokesperson for the boys' families said Kershaw County Coroner Johnny Fellers told them that the teens' cause of death was drowning.

Jake Ziegler, 18, and Ray Pierce, 17, both of Catawba County, NC had been missing for over two weeks.

Investigators said the boys left a party October 13th and told friends they were driving to the beach.

The vehicle was found near the 96 mile marker, which is an exit for Camden. It appears the car went into the median and then went down a steep embankment into the river.

The boys were found by volunteer searchers from the Community United Effort (CUE) Center for Missing Persons out of Wilmington, NC. CUE volunteers alerted authorities to a vehicle upside down in the river around 4:20 Sunday afternoon.

The teens families filed a report with the CUE Center on October 14, the day after the teens first went missing. The director of the CUE Center says the organization worked with local law enforcement agencies and searched for two weeks straight, from Charlotte area down to Myrtle Beach.

Dwayne Baker was one of the searchers in the group that led investigators to the car. "One of them (searchers) said, there's the bumper. We rolled it over and saw the license plate and I told everybody to get out," Baker said Monday.

Baker was helping in the search after his own son went missing in Catawba County 4 years ago. Investigators found his son's remains two years ago. Travis Baker had been murdered.

The last sign of the boys came from a ping off one of their cell phones October 13 along I-77 in South Carolina. Crews searched up and down the interstate and in Myrtle Beach.

The friends attended Bandys High School. Their families have said they had hope the boys would be found alive, but prepared for the worst.

Copyright 2012 WIS. All rights reserved. WBTV contributed to this report.