CHEROKEE COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – Three people died and six others were hurt in a Thursday afternoon crash in what Cherokee County Coroner Dennis Fowler called a “death trap” on Interstate 85.
The crash happened shortly before 3 p.m. in one of the single-lane “chutes” built for I-85 widening construction.
Eight vehicles, including two tractor trailers, were involved in the crash, according to South Carolina Highway Patrol.
Highway Patrol said a tractor trailer crashed into five other vehicles, causing a chain reaction which involved two others.
Two of the victims who were killed were identified as a husband and wife from Townville – 58-year-old Thomas Newman McElroy and 60-year-old Ruth Ann McElroy. The coroner’s office said both died from their injuries at the scene of the crash.
The third victim was identified as 60-year-old Karen Marie Goggin, of Lake Frederick, Virginia. Goggin was the passenger in a Ford Focus. The driver of the Focus was taken to Spartanburg Medical Center for his injuries.
Six other people were hurt in the crash.
“These chutes should be called death traps,” Coroner Dennis Fowler said in a news release. “While state officials have endorsed them at 2 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,” Fowler continued. “We cannot lose any more lives at the sacrifice of a road project.”
SCDOT released a statement on the crash saying that the agency is working to “identify and implement additional measures” to get motorists to slow down, pay attention and stay in their proper lanes.
“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.”South Carolina Department of Transportation
Troopers said traffic was backed up for several miles due to the crash, which closed the interstate to traffic for more than four hours. Traffic is flowing at this time.
A petition has also been circulated online by community members to urge officials to fix the issues that construction has caused in the area.
The petition had more than 1,200 signatures as of Friday afternoon.
State Senator Harvey Peeler also called on SCDOT and Highway Patrol in a Facebook post Friday to “take the necessary precautions to make sure I-85 is a safe place for our families and loved ones to travel.”
“The tragic accident yesterday illustrates the need for the SCDOT and the SC Highway Patrol to take more accountability for this project,” Peeler wrote in the post.