Alligator Sign (copy)

A sign near a retention pond in the Indigo Island Reserve subdivision in Hanahan warns residents that alligators could be nearby. File/Rickey Ciapha Dennis Jr./Staff

The Charleston County Coroner's Office on Monday identified the man who authorities said was found floating in a pond Saturday and had looked to be been bitten by an alligator.

John Elias, 79, was identified as the deceased. A cause and manner of death have not been determined. As of Monday evening, law enforcement officials were still working to determine whether it was an alligator encounter that caused Elias' death. It's still not clear whether the bite marks, which the Charleston County Sheriff's Office said were consistent with a gator's, were sustained before or after the man had died.

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources is also investigating. 

Elias was last seen by his wife around 10 a.m. Saturday and was not found until about 4 p.m. that afternoon, authorities said, when a helicopter spotted his body in the water. 

Deputies said the man's wife reported him missing shortly after 2 p.m. Outside the home, in the backyard, deputies found a pair of yard shears and observed "a brush pushed over at the edge of the pond into the water," according to an incident report released Monday.

If the man's death is ultimately attributed to an alligator encounter it would mark the second such known fatality in South Carolina in the last year.

In August 2018, a woman was killed on a Hilton Head Island resort community after an alligator dragged her into a lagoon and pulled her underwater. Cassandra Cline, a 45-year-old New York kindergarten teacher, encountered the gator as she walked her dog near the water.

Though alligator sightings remain common in South Carolina, fatal incidents involving the animals are rare. Barring the Kiawah Island incident, since the circumstances aren't fully known, there have been 20 alligator-related incidents in the Palmetto State dating back to 1976, according to DNR.

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Reach Michael Majchrowicz at 843-937-5591. Follow him on Twitter @mjmajchrowicz.

Michael Majchrowicz is a reporter covering crime and public safety. He previously wrote about courts for the Daily Hampshire Gazette in Northampton, Massachusetts. A Hoosier native, he graduated from Indiana University with a degree in journalism.

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