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Family of Black Teen Who Died During Boating Trip with Friends Doesn’t Believe His Death Was an Accident

The family of a South Carolina teen who died after a boat trip is publicly disputing authorities’ explanation for his death.

Elijah Dominic “Nicky” Weatherspoon was found dead on June 29 near Sullivan’s Island, four days after he was reported missing, reported The Post and Courier. Before his death, the 18-year-old was on a boat in the Cooper River with eight other people.

Elijah Weatherspoon (above) was found dead on June 29, four days after he was reported missing following a boating trip with his friends. The death is under investigation. (Photo: Elijah Weatherspoon/Facebook)

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources is investigating the incident. Capt. Robert McCullough, a department spokesman, told The Post and Courier “indications are (Weatherspoon) jumped” into the water. Another person who was on the boat reportedly tried unsuccessfully to save Weatherspoon. He was not wearing a life vest at the time.

A cause of death has not been determined. An autopsy was performed on Weatherspoon’s body on Monday.  

“We’re doing all we can do,” McCullough said. “We’ve done interviews, fact finding, right now the [Charleston County] Coroner has it.”

Weatherspoon’s family has doubts about the DNR’s assessment of the incident. The family’s attorney says the teen’s father claims his son was the only non-white person on the boating trip, while McCullough said witnesses told investigators only half of the people on the boat were white, information that is not confirmed. The family hired lawyers from the Buckley Law Group and the Pizarro Law Firm to represent them.

The attorneys believe “foul play” could have factored in Weatherspoon’s death, since he was decent swimmer.

“For him to have drowned is pretty far-fetched,” said attorney Javaron Buckley, according to The Charleston City Paper. He added that he believes investigators are not “doing a sufficient job” with the investigation.

Buckley’s firm released a statement on the family’s behalf on Tuesday night.

“Elijah was a wonderful friend, brother, and son. He was an accomplished athlete, and he loved soccer and football. He was a doting uncle to his six-month old niece, and his younger cousins,” the statement read. “Elijah’s untimely passing leaves a void in this family that will never be filled, and his family is struggling to make sense of the incident that took his life.”

The legal team “will be formally requesting the complete investigative file and pertinent information from the SC Department of Natural Resources, the Charleston County Sheriff’s Department, the Sullivan’s Island Police Department, and any and all agencies who are investigating this tragic incident.”

The case is gaining attention online, thanks in part to a pair of petitions calling for justice. They have received almost 150,000 signatures combined as of Wednesday afternoon.

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