Victim identified in deadly I-77 crash and chemical spill

First responders lifted the shelter in place at around 11:00 a.m. Thursday
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Published: Jul. 7, 2022 at 8:05 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 7, 2022 at 1:41 PM EDT
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FAIRFIELD COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - The Fairfield County Coroner, Chris Hill identified the victim of the Thursday’s deadly crash on I-77 that left multiple vehicles on fire.

Charles Wayne Hartley, 54, of Lancaster was the driver of a pickup truck that hit the two tractor trailers near mile marker 31. The pickup truck and the second tractor caught fire in the crash and ammonium sulfate was spilled onto the highway.

The cause of the accident is still under investigation by the South Carolina Highway Patrol.

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The South Carolina Highway Patrol is investigating a deadly crash on I-77 southbound in Fairfield County that caused significant traffic delays, and a chemical spill which led a neighboring town to shelter in place.

The crash happened just before 4 A.M. near mile marker 31, which is about three miles from the town of Ridgeway. It involved a Peterbilt tractor, and two other cars.

One person has died as a result of wreck, according to the SC Highway Patrol.

Both northbound and southbound traffic were shut down for several hours following the wreck. Northbound lanes re-opened shortly before noon, and all lanes were open by 7 P.M.

Trooper Gary Miller of the SC Highway Patrol released said that a Chevy truck made an improper lane change and was struck by the tractor, which then hit a third car.

Two of the vehicles then caught on fire.

In the aftermath of the crash, a shelter in place was issued for residents in Ridgeway as first responders worked to determine what chemical had spilled onto the highway from the truck.

As the Fairfield County Fire Service put out the fire that resulted from the crash, that chemical got kicked up into the smoke.

Columbia-Richland Fire Chief Aubrey D. Jenkins said residents were told to shelter in place as a precautionary measure.

“Smoke is always a concern, whether if it’s chemical or whether it’s free-burning,” he said. “But you just want to make sure that nothing is toxic. And the biggest thing is nobody knew at the time what was burning other than seeing the fire burning.”

The chemical was later identified by the Fairfield County Fire Service as ammonium sulfate.

The message to stay put startled some in the area on Thursday morning.

“I was kind of worried a little bit because I ain’t never been through nothing like this before,” Chip Bell, who works in Ridgeway, said. “I didn’t know what to do. I was calling, checking up on my family, my friends and my loved ones, making sure everybody else was okay. Everybody was calling me. It was like a panic attack.”

Bell also said that he smelled the chemical in the air at one point.

Kathie Reid was on her way to Myrtle Beach from Rock Hill and got caught in the ensuing traffic jam.

“Of course, in my years of driving, I’ve been in traffic jams but never to the point where both sides were closed, both north and south.”

One woman said it typically takes her about 15 minutes to get to work by taking Peach Road. On Thursday it took her almost an hour.

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At 10:39 a.m., the Fairfield County Fire Service reported the fire was contained on the highway and the shelter in place order lifted.

The chemical spilled on the road was identified as ammonium sulfate. SCHP opened the northbound lanes at 10:53 a.m.

According to the Fairfield County Fire Service, one vehicle has been removed from the scene, but both southbound lanes remain closed as of 12:46 p.m.

At around 2:13 p.m. FCFS said fire units have cleared the scene and one southbound lane was open and all northbound lanes had reopened.

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A deadly crash on I-77 blocked traffic Thursday morning at around 6:30 a.m.

The South Carolina Highway Patrol (SCHP) said traffic is being diverted near mile marker 31.

First responders requested motorists to shelter in place within a one-mile radius of mile marker 32 on I-77.

The Fairfield County Emergency Management Department said a hazardous material spill happened Thursday morning after a trailer and a vehicle crashed. Investigators said crews were working as of 10:30 a.m. to extinguish a fire and control the scene.

Officials said there is no immediate danger. People in impacted areas within one mile of mile marker 32 on I-77 are being asked to remain indoors, shut their windows and doors and turn off their air conditioners or fans if they’re bringing outside air into their buildings.

A shelter in place was added for the Town of Ridgeway. Investigators are in the process of identifying the product that was spilled onto the highway. The Columbia-Richland Fire Department was on the scene providing mutual aid to the Fairfield County Fire Service.

This is a developing story and will be updated as we learn more.

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