An alligator killed an elderly woman in South Carolina last week after she vanished from her assisted living facility. The body of 90-year-old Bonnie Walker from West Ashley was discovered in a pond, and her death has been confirmed as alligator-related.
CBS 8 News reports that Coroner Rae Wooten said on Friday that Walker’s cause of death was by “multiple sharp and blunt force injuries.” She was found in a retention pond near the assisted living facility. She disappeared last Wednesday and was found dead just hours later.
The coroner said the elderly woman’s injuries had the hallmarks of those deriving from an alligator. He added that there were no signs the alligator actually “attacked” the woman, but her fall down a steep slope “attracted the attention” of the reptile.
“Our investigation has confirmed that an alligator was involved in the decedent’s death,” said the coroner in a statement. “There is no indication of an ‘attack,’ but rather it is likely that the decedent slipped, fell down a steep embankment, or otherwise landed in the water, attracting the attention of the alligator.”
According to S.C. Department of Natural Resources spokesman Robert McCullough, Walker’s death is believed to be the first one ever in South Carolina’s history to be linked to an alligator.
— WISH-TV (@WISH_TV) July 29, 2016
Workers with the Department of Natural Resources reportedly removed a large alligator near the assisted living facility on Friday morning.
The coroner didn’t specify if the alligator killed the elderly woman or if she died before the alligator reacted to her fall. If she wasn’t dead by the time hit the water after her fall, then it sounds as though her death was attributed to the alligator. As Wooten said in his statement, Walker’s cause of death stemmed from fatal injuries and had evidence of wounds originating from an alligator.
Post and Courier writes that the Charleston County Coroner’s Office ruled Bonnie Walker’s death as accidental.
— RT (@RT_com) July 31, 2016
Divers recovered Walker’s body from the retention pond around 11 a.m. Wednesday after she went missing around 7:40 a.m. from the Brookdale Charleston care facility.
Walker’s death is also bringing up questions regarding the quality of care she received at the nursing home facility. Authorities are also investigating records from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control that date back to 2010. They reveal a history of complaints, “but few violations.” Some instances document various allegations, such as inadequate training of staff or patient abuse.
The records document allegations of issues ranging from inadequate staff training to patient abuse.
Kristen Puckett, the public relations director for Brookdale’s corporate offices located in Tennessee, released a statement regarding the death of Bonnie Walker.
“Our thoughts continue to be with Ms. Walker’s family,” the director wrote. “We are cooperating with the authorities regarding (Wednesday’s) tragic event… Additionally, we will continue to work closely with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to address their recommendations.”
Puckett declined to answer questions about how Walker managed to get outside or if she was assigned to a unit reserved for residents with Alzheimer’s or dementia. State records show that the most recent complaint was on July 7 about alleged abuse by a staff member to a patient in the dementia unit. The complaint emerged after a family member witnessed a resident hit a staff member who responded by striking back. Following the claims, no evidence of abuse was present.
In September 2015 other reports documented had to do with the facility operating under filthy conditions in the dementia unit. The report included other claims that staff failed to help residents in a timely manner if they fell or needed assistance. There were additional claims that foul odor due to feces in beds were detected.
The coroner declared the elderly woman as being killed by an alligator, but other questions remain in the case as a thorough investigation continues.
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