A multi-vehicle MVC on I-95, sent two people to the hospital Wednesday morning 04-December at 03:24. The accident occurred in Colleton County (SC) near the 55 mile marker northbound, west of Walterboro, when a northbound Peterbilt tractor trailer lost control while traveling at a high rate of speed. The truck entered the median and struck multiple trees, causing one pine tree to fall across the northbound lanes of the Interstate.
The truck overturned and came to rest approximately 30 feet into the wooded area. The cab suffered massive damage and was in several pieces. The engine and entire drive train were ejected from the chassis, landing approximately 60 feet away. The hot engine started a woods fire. The bulk of the cab was wrapped around a tree with the steering wheel on one side and the driver’s seat on the other. The truck driver was trapped in the seat. He suffered multiple traumatic injuries and was in critical condition. The truck’s saddle tanks ruptured soaking the scene and the patient with diesel fuel.
The truck was hauling an intermodal tank which was labeled with a placard indicating it contained diesel fuel, however it was later found to be improperly labeled and contained hazardous chemicals. The tank was not breached and did not leak any contents.
Shortly after the truck crashed, a northbound Ford F150 pickup struck the fallen tree causing the driver to lose control. The pickup truck entered the median, struck several trees and also overturned north of the burning woods. The driver was wearing a seatbelt and received only minor injuries.
A passenger car then struck the tree and also entered the median and struck several trees. The two occupants were not injured. Shortly thereafter a second semitruck struck the fallen tree. He was able to stop in the breakdown lane. The driver was not injured.
A third semi-truck struck the tree, but was able to stop which blocked the highway and prevented other vehicles from striking the tree. The occupants of the second and third trucks ran to assist the injured people. 9-1-1 was flooded with reports of the accident.
Colleton County Fire-Rescue units arrived on the dark stretch of Interstate to find multiple vehicles stopped around the scene, tree pieces and wood debris scattered around the roadway, the woods in the median on fire, and several vehicles in the median.
Firefighter-Paramedics immediately requested additional personnel and apparatus to respond to the scene. Crews began checking on the vehicles and the wooded area for patients. A handline was deployed from Engine 1 to extinguish the fire and lighting was set up to illuminate the accident site. The critically injured truck driver was located, trapped in the wreckage. He was making attempts to get out of the damaged cab. Firefighter-Paramedics placed a medical helicopter on standby and deployed Holmatro Rescue Tools to the truck. Crews were able to use hand tools and worked the man free from the remains of the cab. They treated his severe injuries and controlled the bleeding, then transported him emergent in Fire-Rescue Medic 1 to the helipad at Colleton Medical Center to meet with the C.A.R.E. Flight crew.
The patient was soaked in diesel fuel and could not be flown in the helicopter. The Flight Crew then rode in Medic 1 to assist with patient care while the patient was transported emergent to the Trauma Center at MUSC in Charleston.
The driver of the Ford pickup truck was transported to Colleton Medical Center by Fire-Rescue Medic 26. No other patients required ambulance transport to a medical facility. Traffic on I-95 northbound in the area of the accident was completely blocked. Sheriff’s deputies shutdown the northbound lanes of the Interstate at Exit 53, detouring traffic to Sniders Hwy (SC Hwy. 63). While working the traffic assignment, a northbound tractor trailer struck a Sheriff’s vehicle, totaling the fully marked Dodge Charger. The deputy was not in the car and was able to run out of the way to avoid injury. Traffic remained heavy through Walterboro most of the morning as detoured vehicles slowly made their way through town. Recovery crews and SCDOT worked all morning to clear the accident site. The SC Highway Patrol and State Transport Police are investigating the crash.
Engine 1, Rescue 1, Medic 1, Medic 26, Battalion 1, Car 27, Car 112 and Car 118 responded. Battalion Chief Brent Dalton served as Incident Commander.
Barry W. McRoy –Fire Chief Colleton County Fire-Rescue