Fatal 3-vehicle crash released flammable chemicals, closing I-77 between exits 27 & 34

A Volvo truck carrying ammonium sulfate burst into flames after colliding with a pickup on I-77 southbound. | Photos: Fairfield County Fire Service

FAIRFIELD COUNTY – An early morning three-vehicle fatal crash including a truck carrying ammonium sulfate occurred Thursday near exit 32 on I-77,  sending plumes of chemical smoke and flames into the air.

A shelter-in-place order was issued for the area that, at one point during the morning, included the Town of Ridgeway.

Aerial view of crash

The crash occurred at 3:59 a.m. near mile marker 32 when the three vehicles, all traveling in the south-bound lane, collided.

 A 1999 Chevrolet pickup truck made an improper lane change, according to Master Trooper Gary Miller of the SC Highway Patrol, and was struck by a 2003 Peterbuilt truck. The pickup was then struck by a 2020 Volvo truck pulling a trailer transporting the ammonia sulfate.

The Volvo truck and the pickup truck went off the right side of the roadway, through a guard rail and into a ravine, killing the driver of the pickup truck. Both vehicles burst into flames.

Killed in the crash was Charles Wayne Hartley, 54, of Lancaster, SC, according to the Fairfield County Coroner’s office. The driver of the Volvo truck was transported to an area hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The driver of the Peterbuilt tractor was not injured.

The Volvo truck’s chemical cargo caused the Fairfield County Fire Service to issue a shelter-in-place at about 8 a.m. for a one-mile radius.

By 8:30 a.m., a shelter-in-place order had been issued for the Town of Ridgeway.

The southbound lane on I-77 was closed at the 34 mile marker and the northbound lane was closed at Exit 27. Traffic was re-routed to Hwy 321 on the west side of the interstate and to Highway 21 on the east side of I-77. Traffic was slow through Ridgeway and Blythewood throughout most of the day as the detoured traffic made its way back onto I-77 via Blythewood Exit 24.

By about 9:45 a.m., Fairfield Fire Service Director Jason Pope said the burning chemical substance had been identified and an action plan was put into place with crews working to extinguish the fire as well as control the scene.

“We did not expect any immediate danger to life and health, however, the shelter-in-place order was still in effect until about 10:45 a.m., Fairfield County Sheriff Will Montgomery said.

A hazmat unit, First Call, was on scene and a large tent was set up in the outside southbound lane of I-77. Firetrucks responded from Fairfield, Ridgeway, Rock Hill and Columbia. Eleven Fairfield County firefighters (5 paid and 6 volunteers) were on duty as well as the Fairfield County Rescue Squad, EMS, the Sheriff’s office, the SC Highway Patrol, SC Department of Transportation and the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), according to Fairfield Fire Service Director Jason Pope.

By 10:45 a.m., Montgomery announced that the fire had been contained, the shelter-in-place order was lifted and the northbound lanes of I-77 were opened.

By 2:10 p.m., after 10 hours, the fire units had cleared the scene as the remnants of the two burned trucks were lifted by heavy equipment into a truck with a boxcar trailer. Shortly thereafter one of the southbound lanes was opened.

“It was a multi-agency response,” Pope said. “We were on scene from about 4 a.m. until about 2:30 p.m. when the SC Highway Patrol took over and all the lanes were open again.”

The crash is being investigated by the S.C. Highway Patrol.

Comments

  1. Sure glad that I-77 wasn’t closed between Exits 31 and 3, as The State reported (and didn’t correct).

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