Officials still investigating how two teens died in excavation pit

By: Jonathan Martin Email
By: Jonathan Martin Email

December 18, 2006

The search for answers continues in New Ellenton today as authorities try to figure out exactly how two teenage boys died in a clay excavation pit.

It happened on Gray Mare Hollow Road, off Silver Bluff Road.

According to the autopsy performed today by the Aiken County coroner, the boys died of asphyxiation, suffocating from the dirt that fell on top of them.

Emergency crews discovered the bodies of 15-year-old Joshua McLaughlin and 14-year-old Mathew Morris on Sunday.

Investigators say the boys went behind Joshua's home to play after church.

When they didn't come back, Joshua's uncle went out looking for them and found Joshua's body submerged in dirt in a clay excavation pit.

After digging for an hour, emergency crews discovered Mathew's body.

It appears a landslide caused the teen's death.

The families, too stunned to talk, were joined by church members and friends coming by their homes.

Joshua and Mathew were freshman at Silver Bluff High School.

"He was kind of my model student in my class," said Robby McKenzie, Mathew's science teacher. "Any time I wanted to compare things that kids were doing, he was my comparison."

Both boys were active in ROTC and band at Silver Bluff. That's how Alison Delisle got to know them.

"I'm so very sorry to the family," she said. "I know it must be really hard for them right now, especially right before Christmas."

As the investigation wraps up, the pain remains for this community and a school that's been through so much.

"Four years in a row, we've had some type of issue where we've lost a child at Christmas break," McKenzie said. "It's a tradition that needs to be broken."

The principal of Silver Bluff went by the families' homes today.

There's no word on funeral arrangements yet.

By all accounts, these boys were very energetic, good students, and very involved in their church.

In Trenton, South Carolina in August 2004, 11-year-old Leron Ennis died after a hole he was digging collapsed.

Leron was playing outside his house, and the dirt collapsed, suffocating him.

He was a 6th grader at Leavelle McCampbell Middle School.

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