KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston County Coroner’s Office identified the man whose body was found Saturday afternoon in a pond on Kiawah Island with what appeared to be alligator bite marks.
The body was that of John Elias, who was 79 years old, according to Charleston County Deputy Coroner Dottie Lindsay.
Deputies and wildlife agents are continuing their search for an alligator on Kiawah Island after Elias’ body was found.
Crews found the man’s body Saturday after responding to a report of a missing person in the 100 block of Kiawah Island Club Drive.
An incident report states a woman called police Saturday afternoon shortly before 2:15 p.m. to report that her 79-year-old husband was missing from their home. The woman told police she had last seen her husband at 10 a.m. but that when she returned home, he was not there.
She told police his car, golf clubs and bicycle were still in the garage, the report states.
Deputies found cutting shears in the backyard near a pond and said there was brush pushed over at the edge of the pond into the water, the report states. Officers called in a K9 unit and air and marine patrol support to assist in a search.
From the air, officers spotted a man’s body in the water on the other side of the pond, the report states.
Authorities have not confirmed that Elias is the same 79-year-old man reported missing, but Lindsay said more information would be released.
The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office said the body had bite marks consistent with an alligator encounter.
Department of Natural Resources spokesman David Lucas said they also responded to the area at approximately 4:40 p.m. where someone reported seeing an alligator on top of a man at the pond.
DNR had divers searching for the gator with sonar equipment to try to find it.
Investigators said that based on the initial appearance, deputies suspect that the victim is a person originally reported as missing.
The cause of death has not been determined. Authorities are working to figure out whether the man’s death was caused by the alligator or whether he died and was then found by the alligator.
Deputies say if the alligator was determined to have killed the victim, this would be the first alligator attack that they have responded to in two years and the first human fatality involving an alligator on Kiawah Island.
Authorities say locating the alligator would help to determine what caused the man’s death. Wildlife biologists and community association security have joined DNR to search for the animal.
Town officials say when the gator is caught, it will be euthanized and autopsied to determine its involvement.
The Charleston County Coroner’s Office has not released the identity of the body found in the pond.
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