Crime

August 11, 2014

Horry County police investigate death, barrel of moonshine in Garden City

Authorities are investigating a man’s death and circumstances around his body being found in a Garden City Beach hotel room where chemicals consistent with materials to make methamphetamines also were found.

Authorities are investigating a man’s death and circumstances around his body being found in a Garden City Beach hotel room where chemicals consistent with materials to make moonshine also were found.

Firefighters responding to a medical call before 1:30 p.m. Monday morning in Garden City Beach found the body of Garden City Beach resident Brandon Tarlton, 40, and a large barrel of the chemicals, said Murrells Inlet Garden City Fire Chief Norman Knight.

Knight said someone called before 1:30 p.m. and reported a cardiac arrest in a room on the 10th floor of the Royal Garden Resort, an oceanfront condominium building on North Waccamaw Drive. When firefighters responded and saw the chemicals in a 55-gallon drum, police were called. Knight said there was not an active meth lab in the room.

Lt. Robert Kegler, with Horry County police, said officers with the bomb squad and a hazmat team responded about 2 p.m.

On Tuesday, Kegler said the liquid found inside the barrel and room was confirmed to be moonshine, which is a rare occurrence.

Horry County deputy coroner Darris Fowler details about Tarlton’s death were not immediately available. He said an autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday. Natural causes is not ruled out in the death, Fowler said. Kegler said police are investigating the death as suspicious until a cause is determined because of the chemicals found.

It was not clear Monday who called 911 reporting the cardiac arrest.

North Waccamaw Drive was closed between Calhoun Drive and Seabreeze Drive for hours while crews were on scene.

Joshua Mortin, who is visiting the area, said he heard hollering and went to the beach then saw the fire engines and police cruisers, a sight he said was frightening.

“Somebody told us somebody died and we couldn’t believe it,” he said. “It’s scary it happened right in front of our house. We have small children in the house.”

The resort was not evacuated, but its 10th floor and those immediately above and below were evacuated briefly while the chemicals were removed, Kegler said.

Max Harris, vacationing from Troy, N.C., said he was on the back porch of a house directly across the street from the resort when he heard what he said sounded like a car crash early Monday afternoon. He could not remember the time and it was not clear if the sound and the incident across the street were related.

Tonya Root contributed to this story.

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