3 sailors dead in Beaufort Co. military bus crash - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

3 sailors dead in Beaufort Co. military bus crash

(Beaufort) March 12, 2004 -Three sailors are dead, and dozens of others are hurt, after a bus crash Friday in Beaufort County. The wreck happened about 8:00am Friday on US 17 near Gardens Corner.

Highway Patrol LCpl. Paul Brouthers was on the scene, "It was bad. I wouldn't call it the worst I've ever seen, but it was certainly one of the worst I've ever seen."

Eighty sailors were travelling in military buses from Charleston to a memorial service in Beaufort. Lt. Commander Brian Morrill was following them in a car when one of the buses crashed, "We pulled off to the side of the road and hopped out and tried to help our some of the folks as best I could, along with dozens of other good sailors trying to help out their shipmates."

Dozens of emergency crews from Beaufort and the surrounding counties came to the scene within minutes. Reportedly there were numerous injured people lying on the highway.

The Highway Patrol says the bus went off onto the shoulder and when the driver tried to get back on the road, he over-corrected and crossed the center line, colliding head-on with a truck that was travelling in the opposite direction.

The Highway Patrol says a second Navy bus went off the right side of the road in attempt to avoid the accident. That bus eventually stopped in a private yard. 

LCpl. Brouthers say the chain reaction began with the first bus, "It happened, driver error, driver error caused this collision as far as we can tell."

Three lives were lost. Brouthers says the men were on their way to what was supposed to be a celebration of life, "I would call it a tragedy for the United States military and their families."

Seventy of the military personnel that were travelling on the bus were transported to local hospitals and the Naval hospital in Beaufort. The driver of the truck was airlifted to MUSC in Charleston. His condition is still unknown as of early Friday evening.

The National Transportation board and the US Navy are investigating.

The sailors were crew members of the USS Pinckney . The Pinckney is visiting South Carolina this week. It had been scheduled to leave Charleston on Sunday for its commissioning ceremony in San Diego.
    
The Pinckney is named after Beaufort native William Pinckney who is one of four African-Americans to receive the Navy Cross in World War II. The crew was headed to Pinckney's grave in Beaufort for a wreath laying. Pinckney was awarded the Navy's second-highest honor for saving the life of a shipmate during a Japanese attack on the carrier USS Enterprise in 1942. He died in 1975.

By Heather Brown
Updated 6:11pm by BrettWitt

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