Sheriff’s Office says no foul play suspected in death of missing swimmer


The body of a swimmer reported missing on Saturday night in the Intracoastal Waterway near Palm Tree Island in Wrightsville Beach was found on Monday submerged in water near Motts Channel.

The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office said on Wednesday that while the death of 21-year-old Ian William Malson remains under investigation, no foul play is suspected.

After a search that included county sheriff’s boats, U.S. Coast Guard, the SABLE Air Unit, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, Pender County Fire and Rescue and several private boats, Malson was found was found on Monday 2:30 pm near mile marker 25 on the ICW, at the intersection with Motts Channel.

Malson was reported missing on Saturday night after he was last seen swimming near Palm Tree Island while boating with more than a dozen people.

Details revealed during the initial investigation of Malson’s changed the jurisdiction of the case.

The boaters reported Malson missing to the U.S. Coast Guard at around 11:30 p.m., said New Hanover County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Jerry Brewer said. While conducting a search, the Coast Guard contacted North Carolina Wildlife Resources, which has jurisdiction over all boating accidents, as Malson’s disappearance was at first believed to be the result of a possible injury that occurred from jumping into the water. Brewer said that the 26 foot Regulator boat had 13 people on it.

However, while the search continued that night, investigators learned that some on the boat saw Malson swimming after entering the water, which made it a missing persons investigation shifted the jurisdiction to the sheriff’s department. Brewer said the department set up a command post to search for Malson at 8:30 a.m. after being notified of Malson’s disappearance. The department had as many as a dozen officers searching, with two boats in the water, along with resources in other jurisdictions.

While drinking on the boat was suspected, Brewer said detectives weren’t able to  investigate any potential boating while intoxicated because they weren’t notified about the incident until the morning.

Brewer said that detectives interviewed the occupants of the boat on Sunday at sheriff office headquarters.

According to the obituary published by the  Jernigan-Warren Funeral Home in Fayetteville, Malson was a student at East Carolina University at the time of his death.

“Born on September 18, 1997 in Fayetteville to C.J. and Greg Malson, Ian was raised in Fayetteville where he developed a love for sports and the outdoors,” the obituary said. “He always excelled at his endeavors and went on to become a very avid and passionate hunter and fisherman. Ian attended Terry Sanford High School graduating with the class of 2015. During his time in high school, he was a member of the Terry Sanford JROTC and Lt. Governor of the Key Club. Ian was attending East Carolina University at the time of his passing and was a member of the KA Fraternity. He will be remembered as a spiritual person with a fun-loving personality.

He is survived by his loving parents, C.J. and Greg Malson; his sister Caitlin Malson; his brother Rex Malson; and several Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins.”

Arrangements will be announced at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Ducks Unlimited at P.O. Box 1447 Clinton, NC 28329.

Online condolences may be made at

Services are entrusted to Jernigan-Warren Funeral Home, 545 Ramsey St. Fayetteville, NC 28301

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