WTOC Investigates: 1 year since woman killed in alligator attack on Hilton Head Island

Updated: Aug. 20, 2019 at 4:57 AM EDT
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HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (WTOC) - Tuesday marks one year since an alligator attacked and killed an elementary school teacher from upstate New York who was at her vacation home on Hilton Head Island.

Cassandra Cline was walking her dog near a lagoon in Sea Pines.

As far as we know, there are no new protocols at Sea Pines, but their CSA says there are official South Carolina Department of Natural Resources alligator warning signs posted in high pedestrian areas and near bodies of water. However, a wrongful death lawsuit by the family is still in motion.

The attack on the 45-year-old victim brought up many questions surrounding alligator safety and prevention. According to South Carolina DNR, the Sea Pines community was issued five tags in 2016 and 2017, but did not kill any alligators. After euthanizing the alligator that killed Cline, Sea Pines reported that three more alligators were tagged and killed in 2018.

In a statement, Sea Pines says those numbers are reflective of ongoing research by Clemson University - not as a result of Cline’s alligator attack, saying, “This project was in place prior to the incident and is still underway.”

Sea Pines received five tags for 2019, but WTOC is still waiting to find out how many they have tagged so far.

Back in April, Cassandra’s husband, James Cline, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Sea Pines, saying they were grossly negligent in keeping residents safe from known aggressive alligators. Both parties declined to comment.

School Principal Johanna Hickey at George F. Johnson Elementary in Endicott, New York, says staff and students are still remembering the cherished teacher.

“As dark as it was, out of that, some really beautiful things happened, I think, and the staff and the students feel Mrs. Cline would be smiling, is smiling down, for what has happened,” Hickey said.

Since her death, Hickey says many initiatives have been set up to help kids succeed at school. In a few weeks, the school will open up ‘Ms. Cline’s Corner’ - a cozy place in their library dedicated to their beloved teacher.

They also had a school supply drive, a scholarship given to a high school senior, and an award given to Kindergarten students who embody the same qualities as Cline.

“She was always positive, always caring about her students, about other staff members, really taking that time to chat and talk.”

In a statement sent in by his attorney, James Cline and other members of Cassandra Cline’s family are expected to all be together Tuesday on the anniversary of her tragic death.

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