I-26 accident victim recovering after being burned in 'giant fireball'

Published: May. 28, 2015 at 3:18 AM EDT|Updated: Jun. 7, 2015 at 3:23 AM EDT
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IRMO, SC (WIS) - Charles Watson is truly lucky to be alive.

"I look in the rear-view mirror, and there's just a giant fireball coming at me," Watson said. "I was along for the ride. It came and hit me hard and pushed me forward."

Watson was one of the four people injured in a fiery, hellish accident on Interstate 26 between exit 104 and 106 early Wednesday morning. His left arm and leg are now marked with second-degree burns.

"I never really realized it until I got out and felt the heat, and I could feel the heat all over me, but the heat on my arm and my leg was a lot more painful," Watson said.

Mobile users, tap here to look at photos from the crash scene.

Watson said he was heading to work when he got stuck behind a three car wreck in the left lane. He was trying to get over to pass it, but that never happened. All Watson can remember is the sound of chaos of another accident behind him. He later learned the gasoline tanker carrying 8,500 gallons of fuel barreled right into the back of his Ford Explorer.

"Everything stopped, and then my entire car was on fire. Every window you looked out there was fire," Watson said. "It was just incredible heat. I've never experienced heat that hot."

Watson couldn't get out his driver's side door.

"I sat there for just a second, and all I could see was fire, and I thought I do not want to die in a fire in a car," recalled Watson.

But luckily, Watson escaped through the passenger door.

"I just took my seat belt off and bolted over the console and out the door. The whole ground was on fire," Watson said.

As troopers investigate what specifically caused the wreckage of metal, Watson is thankful no one was seriously hurt. He's looking for a new car and counting his blessings, too.

"As one of the EMS guys told me, he's been doing this for 30 years and this is the first time he's come up on a scene like this when there wasn't a body," Watson said.

Watson said the state Department of Transportation did a great job getting I-26 back open to traffic. He also had nothing but praise for the firefighters and emergency workers who were out there for hours Wednesday. Watson's only hope is that people will drive more carefully.

At this point, the 10-car wreck has been handed over to South Carolina Highway Patrol's Multi-disciplinary Accident Investigation Team. They'll have to investigate before any possible citations are written. Besides some scorch marks and a melted fence, I-26 in Lexington County is otherwise back to normal.

We are told a couple of other drivers who were injured have been released from local hospitals as well.

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