By David Lucas for Island Eye News,
The Charleston County Coroner’s Office has issued a finding in the death of a Kiawah Island man that occurred over the weekend. The deceased, John Elias, 79 years of age, was located by deputies with the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) late Saturday afternoon in a pond adjacent to his home on Kiawah Island Club Drive after he was reported missing earlier that morning.
After it was determined that Mr. Elias had injuries consistent with what would be expected from an encounter with a large alligator, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) was contacted by CCSO. SCDNR wildlife biologists, law enforcement officers and state-contracted alligator control agents began a search for a large alligator known to inhabit the pond. According to Sam Chappelear, Assistant Chief of Wildlife for SCDNR Regions 2 & 4, search efforts continued late into the night and began again early Sunday morning. In addition, SCDNR Law Enforcement Division assets, including members of the agency’s “A.I.R” (Aquatic Investigations and Recovery) dive team assisted with the search. The alligator was located on Sunday afternoon by SCDNR staff and euthanized. After a necropsy performed by SCDNR, the contents of the animal’s digestive tract were collected by the Coroner’s Office as a part of the autopsy process.
Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten commented on the results of the autopsy and the Coroner’s Office Investigation after meeting with the family.
“This is an incredibly sad and tragic situation and our thoughts are with the Elias family as they grieve the loss of their loved one,” said Wooten. “The results of the autopsy indicate that Mr. Elias died of natural causes prior to being found by the alligator. The injuries he sustained were post-mortem in nature.”