One man is dead having drowned in a pond near U.S. 15 South after attempting to avoid Sumter County Sheriff’s Office deputies Wednesday night.
Authorities have not released the identity of the deceased, however he has been described as a white male likely in his early to mid 30’s.
Speaking from the scene off of Christine Drive, Deputy Ken Bell, public information officer for the sheriff’s office, said deputies were operating a routine driver’s license checkpoint around 7:25 p.m. near the corner of Christine and Havenwood Drives and when an approaching vehicle stopped suddenly and the driver quickly fled from the intersection.
As is standard procedure, deputies pursued the man’s vehicle, and after a brief chase, found his vehicle unattended approximately a half-mile from the checkpoint. Nearby residents, standing outside when the man fled his vehicle on foot, pointed deputies toward the direction the man ran. About 100 yards from the road, only seconds after the chase had begun, deputies spotted the man sinking in a small pond.
“When our guys got there, they could hear him gurgling, and he was bobbing in the water,” Bell said, adding that the first deputy to reach the pond attempted to jump in and rescue the man, but that the water was so cold that the deputy himself had to be rescued by a second deputy.
“The safety of our officers is our top priority, and they are trained to know their limitations,” Bell said.
Once out of the water, the deputies called for assistance, and members of the Sumter City-County Dive Team, which includes officers from the Sumter Police Department, Sumter County Sheriff’s Office and Sumter Fire Department were called to the scene.
“Unfortunately, the deputies saw the man go under, so we were pretty sure this wasn’t going to end well,” Bell said.
Around 9:30 p.m., about two hours after the entire incident began, divers from the Sumter Fire Department discovered the deceased man’s body, about 25 feet from the edge of the pond in water about 15 feet deep.
Both of the deputies involved in the chase were treated and released at the scene by Sumter County Emergency Medical Services.
Bell said there were no other passengers in the deceased man’s vehicle, and officers still do not know why he fled. Bell also said neither officer discharged any weapon during the pursuit.
Investigators from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division were also called to the scene and will investigate the incident, since it involved local law enforcement officers.