PORT ROYAL, S.C. (WSAV) — A 3-year-old that was reported missing Wednesday was later found dead in a pond near his Port Royal home, according to police.

The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) originally announced Mason Henley, 3, went missing on Cedar Creek Circle around 7 p.m. on Thursday.

At 7:25 p.m. on Thursday, Port Royal police arrived at Cedar Creek Circle in the Shadow Moss community for a report of a missing child who had wandered away from his home approximately 40 minutes prior.

Officers began searching the area around the house with the assistance of Beaufort / Port Royal Fire Department personnel Deputies from the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office as well as the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office Air Unit helicopter, K-9 Team, and Dive Team.

Nearby doorbell camera footage captured the child chasing ducks in the area near his house. The child was later located deceased by the Dive Team approximately 15 – 20 feet from the shoreline of a pond behind his residence.

“It really is a challenge for parents,” says Burton Fire Captain Daniel Byrne. “Over 70% of the children who drowned weren’t even expected to be around the water source.”

Captain Daniel Byrne is safety expert for Burton Fire.


He says the numbers and dangers are staggering.

Drowning is the leading cause of death for children under 4 – a statistic that hasn’t changed in two decades.


“Knowing your community as a parent where are the ponds, where are the pools where are the lakes, where are the rivers,” says Byrne. “And if its a pool they should have a fence by code or ordinance and have certain protection measures in place. But around community ponds and lakes its more difficult. So explore putting some sort of barrier up there to keep children away from that area.”

“If they have a toy or a ball that floats off into the water make sure only an adult will go after it. If you are feeding fish or other animals by the water edge make sure they know they can’t do that unless mom or dad are with you.”

While parents are the first line of defense.. and the most important ones. Byrne says things can happen in an instant, even to an expert.

“It only takes a second,” remembers Byrne. “My son was scared to death of water, scared to death of it until one day we went to the beach and I had to go in after him. It happens that quick and I’m a safety professional and he just one day he decided he wasn’t afraid of water and I had to chase him into the water. it can happen, it can happen to anybody.”

The cause of death is still being determined pending the Coroner’s report but is suspected to be an accidental drowning.

This is a developing story. Stay with WSAV for details.