Pilot fined in accident

Pallbearers load the last of three caskets onto the deck of a boat Feb. 24 at the Sandy Island boat landing near Pawleys Island. The pilot of the boat involved in an accident that claimed three lives has been fined for safety violations.

Six months after a boating accident that killed three passengers on their way home to Sandy Island, the pilot of the boat has been fined for safety violations.

Tiffany Tucker was issued several citations Tuesday for not having proper flotation devices in the 14-foot fiberglass boat, carrying six people on Feb. 18, said Lt. Robert McCullough with the state Department of Natural Resources.

Meanwhile, island residents, who must rely on private boats to cross the Waccamaw River to the mainland, continue to await a plan that would provide safe, reliable transportation, something they've sought off and on for more than three decades.

Tucker was piloting the boat carrying some of her family members, two children, one teenager and three adults, during a storm. The 16-foot boat was about 30 yards from shore when it sank. None of the passengers was wearing a life jacket, which state law requires for passengers younger than 12.

Tucker couldn't be reached for comment Thursday.

She was the first to make it to shore that night, and she called for help. Shaquatia Robinson, 19; her mother, Lou Ann Robinson, 47; and Waccamaw High School senior Rishard Pyatt, 18, drowned. Shaquatia Robinson's son, Zyair Smalls, was among the survivors. The then-11-month-old was found floating on a boat cushion.

Tucker received three tickets and three warnings. Two tickets were for not having life jackets on passengers younger than 12. The other was for not having enough life jackets in the boat, McCullough said. The warnings cited Tucker for a torn life jacket, and improper lights and registration for the boat.

"Life jackets are important," McCullough said. "They need to be worn because they save lives." The fines range from $100 to $170 for each ticket. She has about 10 days to pay the fine or fight the citations in magistrate's court.

The tragedy spurred local lawmakers and officials to seek another way to cross the 5,000 feet of the Waccamaw River from the mainland to the island, but efforts seem to have stalled.