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Pawleys Island: Woman drowns in creek 15 miles from home

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A Georgetown woman who was driving home Monday afternoon from a neighbor’s house around the corner ended up 15 miles away on the north end of Pawleys Island. Her body was found the next day in the creek on the south end of the island.

“It was the most bizarre drownings I’ve ever seen,” Sgt. Clay Naar of Pawleys Island Police Department said.

Clementine Byrd was 73 and suffered from dementia, according to police. On Wednesday, investigators were still trying to determine how she got to the island and how she ended up in the water, Georgetown County Coroner Kenny Johnson said.

“There was no indication of any foul play. No indication of any trauma,” Johnson said. Preliminary autopsy results showed she drowned.

Byrd was last seen by her family around 4:30 p.m. Monday when she left a friend’s house that is around the corner from her home off Highway 17-A west of Georgetown. She was reported missing around 8 p.m.

Naar was at Town Hall around 7 a.m. Tuesday when someone walked up and told him there was a car on the beach. The 2009 Toyota Camry was by the jetty at Midway Inlet. The engine was running, but the

headlights were off.

A check of the town’s license plate cameras showed the car drove onto the island around 6:30 p.m., Naar said.

There is a security gate on the north end of Atlantic Avenue. It was not damaged and police aren’t sure how the car got through the gate, Naar said.

The Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office brought in tracking dogs and a boat. Midway Fire and Rescue crews also joined the search with a water team and a thermal imaging camera. Automated phone calls were made to houses on the island, many of which are vacant at this time of year. The county Emergency Management Division provided a drone to look for the woman.

Byrd’s body was found around 3 p.m. Tuesday under a dock in Pawleys Creek near the south end of the island by a couple of painters working at a nearby house. “Our best guess is that she was walking around and fell in,” Naar said.

Johnson said it’s also possible Byrd fell into Midway Inlet and was carried south in the ocean to Pawleys Inlet. “My thought would be she ended up in the creek in the vicinity of the car.”

The sheriff’s office is continuing to investigate, according to Carrie Cuthbertson Weaver, the public information officer.

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