Mallory Beach death: Inside the boat crash that killed S.C. teen
In February 2019 a fatal boat crash took the life of Mallory Beach when her friend, Paul Murdaugh, allegedly drunkenly crashed his family's boat. In 2021, after Paul was murdered, investigators began to take a closer look at the Murdaugh family.
At the time of her death in a fatal boating accident in 2019, Mallory Beach was just 19 years old. She had graduated Wade Hampton High School and worked at a clothing boutique in Beaufort, South Carolina. Her family says she had dreams of becoming an interior designer.
"Everybody loved her"
Mallory Beach was popular "and everybody loved her," Mallory's aunt, Lynn Reavis, told "48 Hours." She had many friends and had a boyfriend, Anthony Cook.
Paul Murdaugh, pictured second to right, was friends with Mallory and Anthony. He is pictured with his brother Buster, mother Maggie and father Alex Murdaugh, who was a prominent local attorney. In February of 2019, Paul was 19 years old.
A fatal night
On February 23, 2019, Mallory and Anthony planned to spend Saturday night at a house party and oyster roast on Paukie Island with their friends: Anthony's cousin, Connor Cook, and Connor's girlfriend Miley Altman. They decided to meet first at "Murdaugh Island," a river property owned by the family of their friend Paul Murdaugh. Since Paul and his then-girlfriend, Morgan Doughty, were also going to the party, the friends agreed they would take Paul's family's boat there.
Investigators say on February 23, 2019, Paul, Connor, Anthony, Mallory, Morgan and Miley were all underage and drinking alcohol. These are some of the beverages investigators later found in a cooler on the Murdaugh boat.
Earlier that day, surveillance cameras captured Paul Murdaugh purchasing alcohol at a local convenience store. He used the ID of his older brother, Buster.
Loading the boat
In this still image taken from security camera video, Paul Murdaugh appears to be celebrating that he was able to successfully purchase alcohol, says Michael DeWitt, the editor of The Hampton County Guardian, who has covered the story. Seconds later, Paul can be seen loading the cooler in the boat.
How the party started
Investigators believe that around 6:30 p.m., Anthony, Mallory, Paul and his girlfriend Morgan, and another couple, Connor and Miley, had assembled at the Murdaugh family's river house. They say the group left by boat at around 7 p.m. In her interview with investigators, Miley says they arrived at the house party where they spent several hours. At around midnight, she says she left the party with Paul, Morgan, Anthony, Mallory and Connor. When they got back on the boat, Miley says, Paul insisted on driving to a bar in downtown Beaufort.
Taking their shots
GPS records pulled from the boat's device show the group tied the boat up at a dock around 12:45 a.m. Investigators say Paul and Connor went to a waterfront bar and ordered two rounds of shots. Connor later testified he used a fake ID to get in and said Paul used his brother Buster's ID. Surveillance video captured the two [seated at the bar, at left] while the rest of the group remained outside, waiting for them to return.
Back to the boat
Investigators say just after 1 a.m., Paul and Connor rejoined their friends and headed back to where the boat was docked.
By this point, Paul was allegedly intoxicated and acting rash, according to law enforcement interviews with some of the other passengers.
A tender moment
As Anthony and Mallory made their way back to the boat, a tender moment is captured by surveillance cameras from the dock. It's one of the last images of Mallory alive.
The last ride
At around 1:15 a.m., another camera angle captured the group boarding the boat and taking off.
Out of control?
According to Miley, some of the group started arguing with Paul after, she says, he started driving in circles and acting drunk. Miley told investigators Anthony asked Paul to let him out at a nearby dock, but Paul refused. Morgan would later testify that Paul kept leaving the wheel to fight with her and she said Mallory was scared. Investigators would later note the onboard Garmin GPS showed the speed of the boat increased.
Where is Mallory?
At about 2:20 a.m., the boat crashed into the Archers Creek Bridge. Mallory was ejected from the boat into the dark water. Connor called 911 and begged for help. First responders immediately began searching for Mallory.
Then-Beaufort County Deputy Sheriff Stephen Domino was one of the first responders to arrive; his dash cam video capturing the scene.
He told "48 Hours" that when he arrived, he found Anthony, pictured, distressed and pacing. He says he managed to calm Anthony down and asked him to sit in his patrol car.
When Paul Murdaugh walked up from the boat, Domino says, Anthony grew agitated. "He actually tried to rush through me to get to Paul," Domino said, "because I guess he saw him smiling … and it just set him off again." Anthony told Domino he saw Paul driving the boat right before the crash.
Assessing the damage
Evidence photos taken show what appears to be blood on the boat floor.
Investigators also photographed the damage to the boat.
What happened at the hospital
The passengers were transported to a hospital — except for Mallory boyfriend Anthony, who wanted to stay behind. Connor was treated for a broken jaw and Morgan's hand was badly injured. According to hospital staff, Paul was uncooperative. Medical staff drew Paul's blood. Several hours after the crash, his blood alcohol content (BAC) was .24 — three times over the legal limit." Hospital staff also told investigators that they observed Paul's father Alex Murdaugh going from room to room, attempting to speak with the other survivors. A security guard also reported that he overheard him on the phone saying "She's gone. Don't worry."
Searching for Mallory
Investigators and volunteers — using rescue boats, divers and a helicopter — spent eight days searching for Mallory Beach. On March 3, 2019, two volunteers found Mallory's body about 5 miles down the river from the crash scene. A month after the boat crash, Mallory's family filed a wrongful death suit against members of the Murdaugh family, allowing them to depose the survivors.
On April 18, 2019, on what would have been Mallory's 20th birthday, Paul Murdaugh was indicted and charged with three felony counts of boating under the influence, including causing the death of Mallory Beach and seriously injuring two other passengers. Paul pleaded not guilty to all the charges and was out on bond awaiting trial.
Paul, pictured left with his family, would never have his day in court. On June 7, 2021, Paul was murdered along with his mother Maggie, at one of the Murdaugh's properties. Alex Murdaugh told 911 he had returned and found that they had both been shot dead. Alex Murdaugh was charged with the murders of his wife and son on July 15, 2022.
After Paul's death, the charges against him were dropped.
Mallory Beach's aunt, Lynn Reavis, said Mallory's family believes that Paul Murdaugh was driving the boat at the time of the accident. "With Paul not being here now, I don't think my niece, Mallory, will get justice," Lynn said. "Because with both of them being deceased, it just ended. The case ended. All I ever wanted was for him to get on the stand and say, 'I'm sorry.' That's all I ever wanted to hear."
Many people wondered if Paul Murdaugh's murder could somehow be connected to the boating accident.
An alternate theory
Was Alex Murdaugh involved? The investigating agency, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), has not named any suspects. An attorney for Alex Murdaugh has said Alex is a person of interest.
In January 2023, a judge approved a settlement between the family of Mallory Beach and the estate of Maggie Murdaugh.
In 2021, passenger Connor Cook also filed a lawsuit against Alex Murdaugh, pictured with his family. He claims that Murdaugh had tried to frame him as the driver of the boat.
Mallory Beach's aunt says her niece loved animals, especially dogs. A nonprofit charity was created to honor her memory. "Mal's Palz" is raising money to build a brand new animal shelter in Hampton County, S.C.