2015 Year in Review #10: Fiery crash closes I-26

2015 Year in Review #10: Fiery crash closes I-26
(Source: SC Department of Public Safety)
(Source: SC Department of Public Safety)

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A multiple-vehicle crash resulted in a large explosion on Interstate 26 in Columbia in May and closed the interstate down for hours. Miraculously those involved were all able to walk away from the accident. But the cost for road repairs was in the thousands. We have a look back at this year's Number 10 story.

It started as a typical morning commute for many drivers on Interstate 26 eastbound in Columbia near the Piney Grove Road and Saint Andrews Road exits on May 27. That was until two minor accidents led to a multi-vehicle explosive crash.

A responding trooper paints a picture of the scene. "We've got the entire interstate shut down," The trooper said over his radio. "There's flames probably 50 foot high. Fire service is throwing water on it but it ain't doing no good. There's flames all down the side of the road next to Jamil. Traffic on both sides are completely shut down."

A total of 10 vehicles were involved in the incident. But the scene spun out of control when a tanker truck came up a hill. Once the tanker truck came over the hill on I-26, the driver did not have enough time to brake before running into the other vehicles that were stopped in the roadway. 

"Gasoline is actually running down the wall, down the hill and the gasoline is actually coming, feeding the fire toward the traffic down where we're at," the trooper said. "I'm doing my best to move them back but there's no where to put these people."

RELATED: Troopers say one person `contributed` to fiery I-26 crash

"Because of the short distance between the crest of the hill to where the collision occurred that driver did not have enough time to stop," South Carolina Highway Patrol Sgt. Bob Beres said. "This would obviously be a lot different if this were a two or three mile straight away stretch where the driver had ample time to stop and didn't."

The crash scene looked so bad, many feared for those involved, but quick thinking from local heroes, including one nurse, saved lives.

"Started kicking off the windshield about two or three times," Kelly Winters said, "I was able to dislodge it enough where I was able to reach in with my hands and just pull the windshield up. It was so hot our clothes were smoking and we started yelling at her to crawl through the window and thank God she did."

Four people were injured, but everyone survived, which was the miracle of the day. And Winters was honored by the South Carolina State Guard for his heroic efforts.

The tanker truck involved was carrying 85-hundred gallons of fuel. Because of the fiery and destructive nature of this crash, a lot of repairs were done to this section of I-26.

The road was re-paved and the wall separating the east and westbound lanes was rebuilt, totaling more than $640K. Since no one was at fault, the insurance companies of those involved in the crash will divide up the cost and pay for the repairs.

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