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Posted under: News

Family Of Elijah Weatherspoon Left With Questions After Teen Drowned In South Carolina River While Boating With Group Of Friends

The family of Elijah Weatherspoon is searching for answers after he died mysteriously during a boat party.

Family members of Elijah Weatherspoon have taken to social media to express their frustration with the Mount Pleasant Police Department in South Carolina after the 18-year-old's body was found in the Cooper River on Sunday.

Thousands of people have signed Change.org petitions calling for investigators to look into the strange circumstances surrounding the teenager's death.  

Lauren Jackson, a friend of Weatherspoon's aunt, created one of the petitions and wrote that on the night of June 25, the teenager was with seven friends on a boat. Weatherspoon was the only Black person in the group of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina teens.

Weatherspoon ended up in the water and went missing. The Coast Guard and local police spent the weekend searching for him and eventually found his body on Sunday, WCSC reported

The stories relayed by family members vary greatly because the people on the boat had differing stories about what happened to Weatherspoon before he went missing. 

"The events leading up to his death are unclear and are being treated as if he was just another black man who couldn't swim and drowned. When, in fact, he can swim. The people who were with him have stories that do not match up," Jackson wrote in the petition.

"He fell off the boat and hit his head on a rock. He fell off the boat and his friend tried to save him and couldn't. He jumped off the boat himself and refused to get back in and drowned. Those are just some of the circumstances his family has been told. The police will not investigate further and the local news is no longer reporting on Elijah," she added.

There are also multiple social media posts where family members of Weatherspoon discuss some of the many stories they have been told. One of the key points they all hone in on is the fact that the people on the boat waited nearly an hour to call 911 when it was clear Weatherspoon was in the water and had not come back.



His aunt wrote a longer post about Weatherspoon's life and what happened.



A user on Reddit wrote that he was in contact with people who knew the family and raised a number of questions about the situation. 

"From what I gather, Elijah went out on a boat at night with a group of his (white) friends, and at some point he went into the water and was lost. There was an unsuccessful search at the time, and his body was recovered several days later. Another one of the people on the boat also fell into the water but was recovered alive. That's the end of the part that everyone agrees on," the post from Reddit user laspero read.

"However the boaters' descriptions of events are apparently conflicting. Some say the boat was anchored, some say it was moving, some say he fell into the water and was pulled away by a swift current, some say he jumped into the water but couldn't swim, some say he was pushed. Also, apparently one of the girls on the boat broke her ankle somehow. Several of Elijah's family members believe there may have been foul play involved, and that it could have even been racially motivated. They have noted that there may have been conflict between Elijah and the group, and that he was quite a strong swimmer. They also have raised questions about the amount of time the group waited to contact 911," the user added.


Another Change.org petition goes through the different stories being told by the people who were on the boat when Weatherspoon died. 

"There have being several conflicting stories given to the police on what happened. Some say he decided to flip off the boat, along with another, and a 'Good Samaritan' could only save one, but not Nicky, another story was the boat was docked and Nicky jumped off but couldn’t come back up due to his inability to swim, (He was an experienced swimmer) and another story was he panicked while another tried to help him and sank," wrote Laura Harwell, who said she was best friends with Weatherspoon's mother Melanie Pérez. 

Harwell's post also included that police were asking Weatherspoon's family suspicious questions.

"The family believes that because Nicky was black and everyone else was white they are not trying to investigate. An officer questioned as to 'Why was Nicky on this side of town (Mount Pleasant) 'Why wasn’t he on his side of town.' Regardless of what side of town he was on, a crime was committed and we seek equal justice," Harwell wrote.


The Mount Pleasant Police Department did not respond to Blavity's requests for comment, but in a Facebook post, the department said it would be handing the case off to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR). 

"SCDNR officers and the SCDNR Dive Team, along with USCG and local agencies, responded for a missing boater call on June 25 at approximately 11 p.m. near the Ravenel Bridge. According to witnesses, a young male entered into the water from a boat and another occupant in the boat attempted to save the man but was unsuccessful," the SCDNR said in its Facebook statement. 

"The young man’s body was recovered Sunday by Sullivan’s Island Fire and Rescue. An autopsy will be conducted by the Charleston County Coroner’s Office. SCDNR’s investigation into the incident is ongoing," the statement added.


Coast Guard officials told local news outlet WCBD that Weatherspoon fell overboard and a friend jumped in to help him but was unable to. 

The Coast Guard gave another version of events to WCSC on Friday, telling the news outlet that two people fell overboard and other boats came to the rescue of only one person who fell in. 

On Monday, the SCDNR said an autopsy was being performed on Weatherspoon and gave yet another version of events to WCSC.

“What we’ve found out so far, the facts seem to indicate, that a young man went off the back of the boat into the water. One of the other boys in the boat went in after him, made contact but could not get him out,” SCDNR Capt. Robert McCullough told the news outlet.  

Despite what Weatherspoon's family wrote on social media, McCullough said there were actually nine people on the boat and that police had already interviewed everyone. He said the current in the river is strong and that Weatherspoon never resurfaced after going off the back of the boat. 

When told about what was being said in the petitions, McCullough downplayed the questionable circumstances and implied that it was an accident. 

"If anything comes up if there's any foul play or anything that like that we will pursue it the end ... if anything comes up. I will say this too, accidents happen," McCullough said. "I want people to be safe out there on the water and enjoy yourself but this is, I mean this is one of those tragedies. I really hate to say it, but I can't tell you how many times somebody will jump in the water to either cool off or just never come up. It's the weirdest. It's very odd that that happens, but it does."

He added that the second person found in the water was a friend of Weatherspoon who tried to save him before being rescued. 

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