Thursday, January 29, 2009

Man missing in Daytona surf 20 years ago alive in N.C

Man missing in Daytona surf 20 years ago alive in N.C.
By JULIE MURPHY
Staff Writer

DAYTONA BEACH -- A South Carolina man who faked his death here 20 years ago has been found very much alive in North Carolina -- giving police a false name and driving with a suspended driver's license, officials said Tuesday.


Wint
Bennie Harden Wint, 49, was arrested Sunday in Weaverville, N.C., but has since been released on his own recognizance, according to the Buncombe County Jail there.

Twenty years ago, though, Wint disappeared in the ocean before his fiancee's eyes, according to the incident report at the time.

He and Patricia Lynn Hollingsworth -- 37 at the time -- left their home in McBee, a small town northeast of Columbia, N.C., after Hurricane Hugo hit. They were supposed to be married while in Florida, Hollingsworth told Volusia County Beach Rangers (now known as the Beach Patrol).

The couple arrived in Daytona Beach on Sept. 24, 1989, the report states. They stayed the night at the Ocean Sands Motel and went to the beach the next day.

Hollingsworth said Wint went into the water shortly after 4 p.m. and swam out past the breakers. She last saw him near a dark-haired surfer.

Hollingsworth reported his disappearance to the nearest lifeguard, the report states. She then ran up and down the beach looking for Wint.

The lifeguard never saw Wint. Both a lifeguard boat and the Volusia County Sheriff's Office helicopter conducted a search.

"It's seldom that we lose someone off the beach and they don't wash back in," Beach Patrol Capt. Scott Petersohn said. "I believe there are a number of people who disappear this way."

During a follow-up interview on Sept. 26, 1989, "Hollingsworth stated that she was engaged to Wint and had talked about getting married on this trip to Florida," records show.

Lifeguards continued the search for several days.

"I feel terrible for our lifeguard," Petersohn said. "He spent all this time thinking he let somebody drown."

Attempts to reach the arresting officer at the Weaverville Police Department on Tuesday were unsuccessful, as were attempts to reach Wint, his family members, and Hollingsworth.

julie.murphy@news-jrnl.com

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