Wateree River fatal boat crash looks Murdaugh-esque

A fatal boat crash on the Wateree River has similarities to the Paul Murdaugh boat crash in Beaufort, SC.

A fatal boat crash on the Wateree River this past May has some similarities to the boat crash that killed Mallory Beach when Paul Murdaugh, son of disgraced attorney and convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh, was driving. The similarities? Drunken underage boat driver, a relative with some political power in the area, the sale of alcohol to a minor, and an attempt at a coverup.

That’s what is alleged by the parents of 15-year-old Chase Newman, who died at the scene of the May 5, 2023 crash on the Wateree River. They have filed a lawsuit against several parties. The crash involved a group of friends in two separate boats, which collided near Pine Tree Creek.

Zachary Cameron was driving the boat Newman was in when the collision occurred. One of the first officials on the scene was David West, the Kershaw County Coroner, who is also the granddad of Cameron.

Newman’s parents have alleged that Cameron was drunk, and that West intervened with law enforcement officials who arrived later, telling them that he had checked for alcohol, and that none was involved. He also allegedly advised the boat parties to get rid of any evidence of alcohol in both boats.

Aside from suing Cameron, Newman’s parents are also suing Trent Mathis, the driver of the boat that crashed into the boat Newman was riding in. Five convenience stores are also targets of the lawsuit for selling alcohol to Cameron, who was younger than 21.

No one was arrested at the scene, in large part due to West’s position as coroner, and in the way he inserted himself into the investigation and convinced law enforcement that his grandson had done no wrong, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also states that in the weeks following the crash, Cameron “discussed how drunk he was on the night Newman lost his life.”

Stripers are red hot at Wateree River

The striper bite is as hot as it gets in the Wateree River just below the Wateree Dam in Lugoff. Cant. Jason Wolfe of Wolfe’s Guide Service said the fishing is simple. But navigating to the best fishing grounds is a little more challenging.

“The stripers are up here in big numbers. The females are full of eggs and look like they’re about to pop. And they’re all hungry,” said Wolfe.

His favorite lure for fishing here right now is a Cotton Cordell Red Fin wake bait. He suggests casting into areas where current meets slack water, like behind boulders in the river. Any type of break in the current is a likely area to get a bite.

“These fish love to sit in those areas to get a break from the current, and also to ambush baitfish. If you get one of those lures in those areas, you better hold on. They are crushing it. These fish are strong, and you’ll be in for a fight when one hits,” said Wolfe (803-487-3690).

A steady retrieve is all you need

Current breaks like Wolfe mentions are present all throughout this section of the river. Downed trees, the rocks, and areas where deeper water meets shallow water all offer the types of changes stripers like to focus on. Wolfe said all it takes is a steady retrieve of those Red Fins.

“You don’t want to reel it too fast. Just a steady retrieve makes that lure wobble and wiggle just right. The stripers will absolutely destroy it,” he said.

Wolfe uses a jet drive outboard on an aluminum boat here. He said using anything else is a big mistake.

“Even on days when it looks safe for a fiberglass boat or a regular outboard, all it takes is them closing off a wheel at the dam to lower the water level so much that you can’t get through here without banging against the rocks. You will tear up a propeller in here real quick. And you can put a hole in a fiberglass boat right quick too,” he said.

Stripers will stick around throughout spring

The stripers in this section of the river come out of the Santee Cooper lakes. They run upriver every spring and stick around until early to mid-summer. Wolfe is one of the few charter captains who guides for this type of fishing on the Wateree River.

Wolfe prefers to launch from the Hwy. 1 bridge landing very early in the morning. He travels upriver, stopping just below the big section of shoals to try his luck out there as the sun comes up.

“Fishing here below all the rocks, you’ll catch stripers in any juts in the banks, behind downed trees…anything that creates a break in the current. Even when you’ve anchored your boat, you want to cast behind you in the break created by the boat. They’ll find it real quick, and they’ll set up to take a rest and to ambush prey,” he said.

Once the sun gets up and he can see the shoals clearly, then he moves up into the thick of them. After fishing there a while, he’ll often make another stop on the way back to Hwy. 1, anchor down, and fish for catfish with cut bait.

“You can make a whole day of it on this section of the river any day of the year for catfish. But for these stripers, the springtime is unbeatable,” he said. “Right now is a great time to go because you can catch both species without any trouble.”