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I-85 construction zone ‘death trap’ called into question after triple-fatality pileup involving big rig, SCDOT blames trucker


A coroner in South Carolina has criticized state transportation officials over the safety of a construction zone following an 8 vehicle pileup crash that killed three people on Thursday, but the South Carolina Department of Transportation responded by calling out a truck driver for using the wrong lane.

The crash occurred shortly before 3 p.m. in the southbound lanes of I-85 in Gaffney, South Carolina.

The crash happened in one of the southbound single-lane “chutes” used on I-85 as part of a construction project to widen the interstate.

Local outlet WYFF reports that a semi truck rear-ended several vehicles, causing a chain reaction crash that involved 8 vehicles and sent three vehicles into the northbound lane.

Authorities said that three people traveling in a van died as a result of the crash. Newman McElroy, 58, and Ruth Ann McElroy, 60, passed away at the scene. Karen Marie Goggin, 60, was transported to a hospital but succumbed to her injuries.

Six other people were taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Cherokee County Coroner Dennis Fowler vehemently called out the single lane chutes for being unsafe for drivers. In a news release Fowler said:

These chutes should be called death traps. While state officials have endorsed them at two separate public meetings in Gaffney, I disagree with their being safe for motorists. It seems none of those officials are around to ride with me to knock on the doors of next of kin to deliver the message a loved one has been killed in this maze of concrete. Something must be done immediately. We cannot lose any more lives at the sacrifice of a road project.” 

The South Carolina Department of Transportation issued the following statement on Thursday’s fatal crash, indicating that the truck driver was in a lane to be used by passenger vehicles only:

SCDOT is working with law enforcement officials to gain a better understanding of the circumstances that led to the tragic crash on the I-85 construction project. This project has been plagued by crashes throughout the work zone, including crashes like this one that involved tractor trailers that were traveling in lanes designated for passenger vehicles only. We will continue our efforts with law enforcement and local first responders to identify and implement additional measures designed to get motorists to slow down, pay attention and stay in the proper lanes.”

The crash remains under investigation.


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