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Larger boat ran over smaller boat in Lake Murray crash that killed 2, DNR official says

DNR investigator talks boating safety and investigative process after accidents

Ben Thomas, an investigator from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, talks about the investigative process after boating accidents and shares some tips on boating safety.
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Ben Thomas, an investigator from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, talks about the investigative process after boating accidents and shares some tips on boating safety.

Investigators have determined that a fatal boating collision on Lake Murray happened when a larger boat ran over a smaller boat.

The crash happened about 11:10 p.m. Friday between Crystal Lake and Dreher Island, officials have said. Two boats were involved – a 32-foot Intrepid power boat and a 16-foot bass boat, each carrying three people.

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources has determined the larger boat ran over the smaller boat, according to Capt. Robert McCullough, a spokesman.

The crash killed two of the three people on the smaller boat.

Mark Daniel Phillips, 37, of Columbia, died of blunt force trauma from the crash, Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher said. The body of Christopher Shawn Lanier, 28, of Blythewood was recovered by divers around 5 p.m. Saturday, about 18 hours after the accident and not far from where it happened.

Phillips, who went by “Danny,” was the owner of All Things Wild, a wildlife and pest removal service in Columbia. He was interviewed last week by The State newspaper after assisting law enforcement in an animal abuse case involving multiple reptiles.

Lanier was also part of the All Things Wild business, according to Fisher, who said both men “came from really good families.”

The third man on the smaller boat, along with an occupant from the larger boat, were taken to an area hospital for treatment after the accident, McCullough said. Their conditions were not immediately available Sunday.

Investigators are still trying to determine how and why the collision occurred, but McCullough said there’s no indication the occupants of the larger boat tried to flee the scene.

McCullough said investigators are waiting to interview the victims treated at the hospital and to see results from Monday’s autopsy for Lanier, who was not wearing a life jacket.

“This is the hard part with a water investigation,” McCullough said. “There’s no skid marks on the water after a wreck.”

It’s unclear whether alcohol was a factor in the crash, McCullough said Sunday.

“There’s always the possibility of criminal charges coming out of these,” McCullough said of the accident. The Department of Natural Resources is leading the investigation.

It is rare to have multiple people die on Lake Murray at the same time, McCullough said.

The last time that happened was in May 2010, when four people were killed in two separate boating accidents minutes apart.

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