Mother and daughter dead, one person missing after boat capsizes in Waccamaw River

Shaquatia Robinson

LITCHFIELD BEACH -

A mother and grandmother are dead, a baby is clinging to life and a teen is missing after a boat carrying six people capsized in the Waccamaw River between Georgetown and Myrtle Beach Wednesday night.

The 15-foot boat was making the 300-yard journey across the Waccamaw River from the mainland to Sandy Island on Wednesday night when the accident happened, Georgetown County Sheriff A. Lane Cribb said.

Showers and thunderstorms swept across the coast Wednesday night but Cribb said it wasn't clear whether the weather had anything to do with the boat capsizing.

County Coroner Kenneth Johnson identified the victims as 19-year-old Shaquatia Robinson of Sandy Island and her mother, 47-year-old Lou Ann Robinson. Shaquatia Robinson's 1-year-old son was found in the water and was listed in critical condition at the Medical University Hospital in Charleston on Thursday. His name is Zyair Smalls, according to his grandfather, Robert Smalls. Doctors at the Medical University of South Carolina Children's Hospital said it would be 48 hours before they can properly assess his injuries, the grandfather said.

Rescuers searched by air and boat Thursday for a missing 19-year-old man who the Georgetown Times identified as Rishard Pyatt, a Waccamaw High student and a member of the school's basketball team. The capsized boat had not been found Thursday.

The sheriff said the woman operating the boat and her 5-year-old daughter were able to safely get to shore. He said he understood that those in the boat could not swim. None of the six was wearing a life jacket, Georgetown County Sheriff Sgt. Neil Johnson said.

Sandy Island is a 12,000-acre island located between the Waccamaw and Great Pee Dee Rivers. The island is home to rare or endangered species of plants and animals and more than 9,000 pristine acres are managed as a preserve by the South Carolina Nature Conservancy. The island also has an enclave of about 21 families. Residents fought attempts to build a bridge from the island in the 1990s, arguing that it would open the island to development. Smalls, who does not live on the island, said he hopes they will reconsider after this accident.

Those on the boat were returning to the island after boarding at a landing near Litchfield Beach, an upscale resort community of golf courses, condominiums and restaurants about 70 miles northeast of Charleston.

It's about 300 yards from the mainland landing to the island, said the sheriff, who called it one of the worst boating accidents in recent memory in Georgetown County.

"All of them are bad, but lately it's been one of the most tragic we have had," he said.

Read more here later and in Friday's editions of The Post and Courier.