After conducting a thorough investigation, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) has determined no criminal charges will be filed for the boating fatality that took place on Lake Murray the night of Thursday, April 21, 2017. The Eleventh Circuit Solicitor’s Office was consulted and reviewed all of the files of the investigation and concurred with SCDNR’s decision.
The collision occurred around 11 p.m. when the 18-foot bass boat operated by Danny Phillips failed to give way to Bruce Dyer’s 32-foot center console boat. Based upon investigation, the bass boat had the responsibility of giving way to the center console boat. In an attempt to avoid collision, Dyer made a sharp turn, ejecting his wife and another passenger overboard. Despite the evasive attempt, the boats collided. Two of the three passengers in the bass boat were killed due to the impact, and the third survived with non-life-threatening injuries. None of the passengers on Dyer’s boat sustained serious injuries.
Following the incident, Dyer passed the Seated Field Sobriety Test and the Standard Field Sobriety Test, exhibiting no signs of impairment. Officers present also observed no signs of impairment. Based upon the results of the field sobriety tests and officers’ observations, under state law and training protocols, no further tests could be required.
All parties were cooperative and forthcoming throughout the investigation. Dyer willingly handed his GPS over to SCDNR officers, who then used the GPS to calculate the speed and navigation track of Dyer’s boat before and during the collision. This evidence, along with witness statements, helped in determining the nature of the accident.
South Carolina law states that, in order for a reckless homicide charge to be filed, the person must have been operating the boat “in such a manner as to indicate either a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” The investigation has determined Dyer’s speed was not excessive, nor was there any erratic operation of his vessel. Therefore, no reckless homicide or operating charges are appropriate with regard to the center console boat.
South Carolina law also states the operator of a boat involved in a collision is required “if he can do so without serious danger to his own vessel, crew, or passengers, to render assistance as it may be practical or necessary to persons affected by the collision.” After the collision, Dyer recovered his passengers from the water, secured his vessel, called 9-1-1, and directed his spotlight toward the bass boat.
The investigation is being finalized and the final report should be completed by the end of the month.