While the identity of the man who drowned in a man-made pond near U.S. 15 South has been made public, authorities are still trying to determine what caused the tragic events Wednesday night.
Sumter County Coroner Robbie Baker confirmed the victim was 28-year-old Mark Horne of Dalzell. Baker said an autopsy has been scheduled to determine an exact cause of death, however he said his initial examination indicated no signs of foul play.
Around 7:25 p.m. Wednesday, during what officers with the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office described as a routine driver’s license checkpoint at the corner of Christine and Hazelwood Drives, the victim tried to avoid going through the stop in his car.
After a brief chase in their vehicles, deputies found Horne’s car unattended approximately a half-mile from the checkpoint. Nearby residents, standing outside when the man fled his vehicle on foot, pointed deputies in the direction he had fled. About 100 yards from the road, only seconds after the chase had begun, deputies spotted the man sinking in a small pond.
“We still have no idea why he ran,” said Deputy Ken Bell, public information officer for the sheriff’s office, adding that investigators did not find anything illegal in his car and had no warrants for his arrest.
A search of the Third Judicial Circuit public index, however, indicates Horne was scheduled to appear Monday in Sumter Magistrate Court for driving under suspension and speeding tickets issued by South Carolina Highway Patrol. If he was, in fact, driving without a valid license as was alleged in the charges he faced, that might explain his decision to flee from the law enforcement checkpoint.
Bell also stressed deputies made several efforts to save the man during the tragic incident, noting the officers were unaware there was a pond in the area as they pursued, and had they not heard the man’s efforts in the water, they might not have been able to locate him in the dark.
One of the two pursuing deputies went into the water, attempting to save Horne, but the frigid waters made it impossible, and the deputy himself had to be pulled back to land by his fellow deputy.
Bell noted the depth of the man-made pond increased rapidly, and deputies were unable to touch the bottom of the pond. After climbing out of the water themselves, Bell said deputies looked for either a boat or even a large limb to reach out to the struggling victim, but could not find anything to use. “They did everything they could to save him,” Bell said.
Divers, along with Sumter County Emergency Medical Services, were called to the scene, however Horne was not located for approximately two hours, eventually located by a Sumter Fire Department diver about 25 feet from the edge of the pond in water about 15 feet deep. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The deputies were treated and released by Sumter County EMS.
Since the incident also involved his deputies, Sumter County Sheriff Anthony Dennis has requested the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division investigate the actions leading up to Horne’s death.