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Names of girls killed in U.S. 17 crash released; driver of other vehicle charged

Two girls were killed in a car crash Tuesday night on U.S. 17 near Pirateland Family Camping Resort. The girls were in the backseat of this van.
Two girls were killed in a car crash Tuesday night on U.S. 17 near Pirateland Family Camping Resort. The girls were in the backseat of this van. cbyun@thesunnews.com

An investigation into a crash that killed two North Carolina girls on U.S. 17 near Pirateland Family Camping Resort continued Wednesday, but the driver of the other vehicle was charged with two counts of reckless homicide, officials said.

Neil Joseph DeJean, 47, of Duson, La., was charged about 1 p.m. Wednesday with two counts of reckless homicide caused by injury from a vehicle and one count of open alcohol container, said Cpl. Sonny Collins with the S.C. Highway Patrol.

DeJean is being held at J. Reuben Long Detention Center pending a bond hearing. He was booked into the jail at 2 a.m. Wednesday, according to records.

Horry County Coroner Robert Edge identified the girls killed as Skyler Emore, 9, and Dakota Shepherd, 11, both from Timberlake, N.C., which is between Roxboro and Durham, N.C. The girls were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash from internal injuries, Edge said.

The girls were riding in the third rear seat of a 2005 Dodge minivan going northbound on U.S. 17 when it was struck by a 2013 Mercedes, which was going southbound on U.S. 17 at 8 p.m. Tuesday, said Lance Cpl. Hannah Wimberly with the S.C. Highway Patrol.

DeJean was driving the Mercedes, Collins said.

A records check with the State Law Enforcement Division showed DeJean has no prior arrests in the state.

But according to Florida records, DeJean was charged June 12 with domestic violence battery, a misdemeanor, in Okaloosa County, which includes the Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Niceville and Santa Rosa Island areas.

According to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s records, DeJean pleaded not guilty to the charge and was released on $1,000 surety bond. The charge is pending.

DeJean, who worked as a directional driller on an fixed platform in the Gulf of Mexico, also settled a federal lawsuit in May 2014 against his former employer after he suffered a fall on the drilling rig, according to the federal lawsuit. It did not disclose details of the settlement, but the suit sought $4.6 million.

In the lawsuit, DeJean suffered a debilitating leg injury that ended his career on the oil platform.

The S.C. Highway Patrol’s Multi-Disciplinary Accident Investigation Team was on scene Wednesday investigating the crash.

Friends and relatives of the girls could not be immediately reached Wednesday.

The minivan was attempting to turn into a private property parking lot across from the campground entrance when it was struck, Wimberly said. After the Mercedes struck the van, it then struck a car parked in that parking lot.

A man and woman were in the front seats of the van and a boy was in another seat of the van and they were all taken to Grand Strand Medical Center for treatment. Their conditions were not immediately available Wednesday, but they did remain hospitalized, officials said.

DeJean was also taken to Grand Strand Medical Center for treatment immediately after the crash, officials said.

At the time of the crash, Myrtle Beach police Cpl. J.M. Kerns said another adult and a child, who were also in the Mercedes, were taken to the hospital for treatment. Their identities and conditions were not available Wednesday.

Details about seatbelt usage were not available from troopers.

Myrtle Beach police were originally dispatched to an area in front of Myrtle Beach State Park, Kerns said. When police arrived on scene they “took control of the situation” until the S.C. Highway Patrol arrived, Kerns said.

Southbound traffic on U.S. 17 Business was diverted around the state park past Pirateland for several hours while police cleared the scene.

More information will be posted as details are released.

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