No sign of missing Berkeley County boaters, search officials say

A look at the capsized boat taken near Pimlico Boat Landing around 7:15 p.m. Saturday (Source: Sara Oliver)

MONCKS CORNER, S.C. (WCIV) -- A third day came and went in the waters around the Pimlico Boat Landing with search and rescue teams coming up empty on the search for two missing boaters.

Berkeley County rescuers finished their search around 5 p.m. Monday, almost 72 hours after the first call for help was made. Berkeley COunty Coroner Bill Salisbury said crews are now trying to recover the bodies of 57-year old Robert Andrews and 27-year old Robbie Mullinax, but the number of searchers was being scaled back.

The Berkeley County Rescue Squad resumed searching for Andrews and Mullinax Monday morning. Crews launched from the Dennis Boat Landing, officials said.

While crews are scaling back their manpower, the Mullinax family said Monday evening they would not give up hope.

"It's hard, but we're staying strong. We're just wanting to find him," said Robbie Mullinax's 18-year-old sister, Victoria. "We all have hope that we're going to find him."

Victoria Mullinax says her brother, Robbie, loved fishing and being on the water. Now, the waters Robbie Mullinax enjoyed are bittersweet.

"He was my second dad," said Robbie Mullinax's only sister and youngest sibling as she chuckled while thinking of her brother. "He was worse than my dad. I could never talk about a boy to him."

The search for the two missing boaters Saturday night turned into a recovery mission early Sunday morning. Officials said as many as 50 people were joining in the search Sunday.

Robbie Mullinax and Andrews were missing after a pair of boating accidents in Berkeley County Saturday evening, officials said.

According to Berkeley County officials, rescue squads and the Department of Natural Resources were called shortly before 6 p.m. Saturday to search for a missing person near Tailrace Canal. Apparently, the person had jumped off a boat that was traveling the Cooper River.

"Had a report of four people in a boat and was traveling down the Cooper River when one person decided to jump out the boat while it was underway," said Berkeley County Coroner Bill Salisbury. "He's not been seen since."

While crews were searching for the missing boater, they were notified of a collision between two boats that was two miles away from their search, officials said.

"They were riding and a boat hit them in the side that my brother was on," said Victoria Mullinax. "They flipped and when they all come to surface, a girl was knocked out. Robbie just didn't surface."

Officials said there were several injuries; as many as four people were transported by ambulance to area hospitals. Rescue crews are still looking for a missing boater at the second scene, officials said.

"We found a bass boat that had a young lady was injured, had a lot of head trauma and she was eventually transported by helicopter to MUSC," Salisbury said. "There was a total of five people injured in the boat collision. The one lady, the young lady that I was involved in she was basically unconscious and had a lot of head trauma."

DNR had crews in the water and fire department teams are assisting. Officials said no one on the boats were wearing life jackets, adding the devices greatly increase a person's chances of surviving in the water.

"I've been doing this for about 43 years, and I've only gone to two calls where a person has drowned with a life preserver on, and I've probably gone to 200 where a person has drowned without a life preserver," Salisbury said.

The Red Cross spent Sunday at Pimlico Boat Landing, providing food and drinks to crews searching the water for the two missing boaters.

"We are here to provide food, hydration and just a safe place for the rescuers and the families to meet and get together and decompress," said Mary Bos with the Red Cross.

DNR officials said the agency has dive crews and aerial surveillance crews in use and had plans to continue searching until the missing men were recovered.

"I hope we can bring this to a conclusion today. But if we don't, we will be here tomorrow," Salisbury said Sunday.

Salisbury said the search will resume at 8 a.m. Tuesday, but will be limited to boats and airborne searches. Divers will not be used.

Update: Early Tuesday morning, Bill Salisbury confirmed to the Post and Courier's Andy Paras that a body was recovered from the Cooper River. He told ABC News 4's Stefanie Bainum, however, that he "could not confirm anything."


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