The Spartanburg County Coroner’s Office is now confirming that three University of South Carolina-Upstate student athletes were well above the state’s legal blood-alcohol limit at the time of a crash that killed them and a fourth athlete last October.
Coroner Rusty Clevenger made the findings public in a report issued Monday, four months after the crash that killed soccer players James Campbell and Horace Sproull IV, as well as women’s tennis athlete Sarah Vande Berg and USC-Upstate cross-country runner Josh Lee. A fifth passenger survived the crash. The coroner had been waiting for legal guidance from South Carolina’s top prosecutor on whether the records could be made public.
The state Attorney General’s Office issued its opinion last week, citing a 2014 state Supreme Court ruling that autopsies are not public records and are not covered by open records requests. In the opinion, Solicitor General Robert Cook wrote the ruling likely also includes toxicology reports from deceased victims. However, Cook also wrote coroners are not covered by federal medical privacy laws in the same ways as physicians and could therefore talk about autopsy findings. The opinion is not legally binding and is merely a prediction of how the AG’s Office believes a court would rule.
Clevenger decided to go public with the findings on Monday, even though family members for one victim had requested privacy. “In this case, indirectly alcohol was a part of the cause of these young people’s deaths,” he told reporters in a Monday press conference. “But that is not listed as their cause of death on their death certificates.”
The coroner said Campbell was driving the car that night and had a blood-alcohol content of 0.12 (the state’s legal limit is 0.08). Sproull was a passenger and had similar levels. Vande Berg was also over the limit at 0.13, according to the report. Lee was below the limit.
All four of the student athletes were juniors at USC-Upstate. Campbell had previously played high school soccer in Greenville. Sproull was also a junior and an Alabama native. Vande Berg was a Florida resident who would have been in her third year of tennis. Lee was a Spartanburg native who also ran for Broome High School prior to arriving at Upstate.