Lucky break helps teen survive stingray strike


HILTON HEAD ISLAND - The expression "timing is everything" couldn't be more true for Levi Dixon, a Bluffton 18-year-old who had an unusual - and nearly fatal - encounter with a stingray.

Dixon, who works for Sea Monkeys Watersports on Hilton Head Island, was riding a Jet Ski in Skull Creek when a large ray leaped out of the water, hitting him in the face and knocking him unconscious.

Thomas McDaniel of Okatie and his girlfriend, Joanna Whipple of Bluffton, were in a boat nearby and saw the accident happen.

Just before the accident, McDaniel said a koozie flew out of the back of their boat, so they turned around to pick it up. That put them in just the right place to help Dixon, who might have drowned otherwise.

McDaniel said the ray was big. He estimated it was about 4 feet wide and at least 30 pounds.

McDaniel jumped into the water and held Dixon upright while Whipple called 911. When another boater came by, they were able to get Dixon on board and delivered him to EMTs waiting at a nearby dock.

"If that koozie wouldn't have flown out," McDaniel said. "... It's a miracle he's alive."

Dixon said he doesn't have any memory of the accident.

"I just remember going out on one of the skis to help with some customers that were falling behind," he said. " ... and that was the last thing I remember, and I woke up in Hilton Head Hospital."

Dixon's encounter with the ray left him with two broken ribs, bruised lungs and swelling of his brain. He was transferred to Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah and was discharged two days later.

David Lucas, spokesman for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, confirmed that the agency responded to the scene of the accident.

Lucas said one of the responding officers, 1st Sgt. Adam Henderson, told him he had not seen an accident like this one in 13 years of water patrols.

However, Henderson told him there are more rays in nearshore waters off Hilton Head during the spring and summer, and they frequently jump out of the water.

Sea turtles nest at record

pace along Georgia coast

SAVANNAH - The number of sea turtle nests along the Georgia coast is on pace to set a record this year.

Kris Williams is director of Caretta Research Project, a sea turtle conservation organization. She told the Savannah Morning News that beach patrols along the Georgia coast between Tybee and Cumberland islands had recorded 1,726 nests by Tuesday. Last year's season total was 1,742.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Biologist Mark Dodd said if nesting continues increasing, he expects up to 4,500 nests by the end of the season. The previous record, set in 2016, is 3,289 loggerhead nests. Loggerhead sea turtles are the species seen most often in Georgia.

Nesting season usually reaches its peak in June and continues into early July. Less intense nesting usually lasts through August.

Recent rain improves drought conditions in S.C. counties

COLUMBIA - The S.C. Drought Response Committee met Thursday via conference call to update the drought statuses for South Carolina counties.

The drought declaration was removed completely for Oconee, Pickens and Anderson counties. The incipient drought status was maintained in Greenville, Spartanburg, Cherokee, Union, York, Chester, Lancaster and Kershaw counties. The drought status improved to incipient for the remaining 35 counties.

From SCDNR and wire reports

The weather pattern across South Carolina for most of May was dominated by excessive heat and very dry conditions. Thankfully, the pattern changed over the last eight days. The large ridge of high pressure that was responsible for the hot dry weather was replaced by a trough of low pressure which produced more clouds, rain and cooler weather.

Hope Mizzell, S.C. State Climatologist, stated, "We went from excessive heat to excessive rain in some areas. There are probably questions on how we have flooding and drought at the same time. The 8-day rainfall totals were highly variable ranging from only 1.34 inches at Fort Lawn to 16.46 inches in Bluffton. The rainfall variability within Charleston County alone ranged from 3.23 inches to 10.35 inches. Ten inches is enough to end a drought, three inches is not.

From SCDNR and wire reports