South Carolina officials are still working to determine whether a man, whose body was found in a Kiawah Island pond on Saturday, died as a result of an encounter with an alligator.
The unidentified man's body was recovered on Saturday afternoon, around 4 p.m., from a pond behind his Kiawah Island Club Drive home, said Charleston County Sheriff's Office spokesman Roger Antonio. He had been missing since 10 a.m. The residence is off Green Meadow Lane.
The man's body was not located until a sheriff's office helicopter performed an aerial sweep of the water, Antonio said. Upon inspection of the man's body, authorities noticed "bite marks and wounds consistent ... with an alligator encounter," the department said in a statement on Saturday.
The Charleston County Coroner's Office will perform an autopsy and determine the man's cause and manner of death. As of Sunday afternoon, officials had not said whether they believe the apparent alligator bites were sustained before or after the man's death.
The S.C. Department of Natural Resources is also investigating. Robert McCullough, a spokesman for the agency, said Sunday that no new information was expected for the remainder of the weekend.
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 SC DNR.
If the man's death is ultimately attributed to an alligator encounter, this would mark the second known such fatality in South Carolina this past 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.
The gator had surged from the water in an effort to latch onto the woman's dog, authorities said, but got the leash instead. When Cline attempted to free her pet from its leash, the alligator pulled her under, DNR said at the time.
Besides Cline, just one person in South Carolina is known to have died as a result of a run-in with an alligator. In July 2016, Bonnie Walker, a 90-year-old woman with dementia, wandered from the West Ashley assisted-living facility and likely fell into a pond close by. Back then, the Charleston coroner's office ruled the woman died as a result of the gator wounds.