North, SC (Paul Kirby) – A report from an Orangeburg County sheriff's deputy who responded to the drowning of a popular Pelion High School senior Sunday afternoon tells a tale of a fun afternoon gone wrong. It was hot and a large group of teens were having fun cooling down at a popular swimming hole just south of North, SC. The dark waters of the North Fork of the Edisto River were providing relief when suddenly, tragedy struck. The deputy was dispatched after E.D. “Little Marcus” Dwyer disappeared under the surface of the river and didn’t come back up. Someone had called for help, and those who were at the landing with Dwyer were either crying in a panic or searching frantically for the missing teen from the bank. Rescuers were already on the scene searching the water too.
In the deputy’s report he describes what he found when he arrived. He says one of the boys' girlfriends met him at the landing there by the river. She told him that one white male had jumped from the bridge on Hwy. 321 and was swimming in the water below with another male. The two shouted back at Dwyer who was still on the bridge. The pair in the water shouted at Dwyer and “asked him to jump in the water as well.” Eventually, he did jump, and he started swimming toward the others, according to the girlfriend’s statement. Dwyer apparently made it to the others but began to struggle quickly. Statements from the other teens indicate that once he was in trouble, he tried to grab onto something nearby, in this case one or both of the boys already in the water.
This type of situation is very dangerous, even for the strongest swimmer; panic can pull both under the water. Instinctively, the stronger swimmer will usually push away. In the case of the swimming boys Sunday, that’s appears to be exactly what witnesses say happened. Dwyer tried to grab onto one boy, but he pushed him off repeatedly and eventually swam to the bank several yards away. Once there, he immediately turned and began looking for Dwyer along with others.
Likewise, a boys who was in the water when Dwyer jumped in the river told the deputy a similar story. The last boy to jump from the bridge (Dwyer) swam up to his friend and him and started pulling on their shorts and grabbing them. He told the deputy he thought Dwyer was, “playing around,” and was not serious. Another female who was on the scene said once the two boys who were still swimming got to the bank, they all began searching for Dwyer while someone dialed 911.
The other swimmer was also interviewed. He told virtually the same story. Dwyer jumped from the bridge, swam toward his friend and him, began to struggle, and then went under the water. One of the sheriff’s deputies specifically asked a female witness who had been another girl if she had observed anyone push Dwyer from the bridge. She answered, “no.” The Orangeburg County’s Sheriff’s Department had an investigator respond to interview witnesses of the incident again. Eventually, all OCSD's personnel left the scene after concluding that Dwyer had jumped from the bridge under his own power, struggled in the water, and then went under.
Eventually, officers with the SCDNR located Dwyer’s body not far from where he was last seen. These law enforcement officers recovered him, handed the victim off to the Orangeburg County Coroner’s Office who transported him from the scene. By this time, his famliy had gathered and were in absolute anguish.
Sunday night, students gathered at the school for an impromptu candlelight vigil for Dwyer. Monday, the school was in shock at the horror that their friend and classmate could be taken from them at a time that was to be the happiest in his life. He had just attended his last prom and was set to graduate soon. School District One said they had counselors and school psychologists at the school early Monday to help students and staff deal with their loss.
Funeral arrangements are being made by his family. They will be announced at a later time.