Drone crashes while attempting to smuggle contraband into South Carolina prison
A small drone hovers in the sky on Feb. 1, 2014 in Washington (AFP)

By Harriet McLeod

CHARLESTON Fla. (Reuters) - A drone being flown in a novel attempt to smuggle phones, marijuana and tobacco into a South Carolina maximum security prison crashed outside its walls, authorities said on Wednesday.

The contraband smuggling attempt has been under investigation since the wreckage was discovered in April outside the Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville, said state Department of Corrections spokeswoman Stephanie Givens.

Officials believe it was the first time an unmanned aircraft had been used in an effort to breach prison walls in the state, Givens said. Most cell phones are thrown over walls.

"The technology is getting better, and we have to figure out different ways to fight back," she said.

Illegal cell phones, an issue in prisons nationwide, have drawn particular alarm in South Carolina. In 2010, a cell phone smuggled into the same prison was used to order a hit on a prison officer, who was shot six times at his home but survived.

Authorities have arrested one man in the drone incident and are seeking another suspect. Brenton Lee Doyle, 28, appeared in court on Wednesday for a hearing. He faces charges of attempting to introduce contraband into a prison and possession of the drug flunitrazopam, a muscle relaxant known as "roofies."

His case was continued until September.

Doyle has said he has never seen a drone and that police said nothing about a drone at the time of his arrest, his attorney Wayne Floyd said. 

Authorities said the search for the second suspect continues.

(Editing by Letitia Stein and Eric Walsh)

[Image via Agence France-Presse]