COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – First responders in Colleton County say a truck driver out of North Carolina miraculously survived a high speed crash that destroyed his transfer truck early Thursday morning.
According to Colleton County Fore-Rescue, 911 received several reports of a tractor trailer truck that left the roadway and struck several trees near mile marker 47 southbound just before 3:00 a.m.
They say the tractor trailer, which was traveling southbound, left the roadway at a high rate of speed, crossed a ditch, then entered the woods striking multiple trees, before hitting two large pine trees head-on.
The cab was crushed and displaced. The trailer came apart as almost the entire load of 50 pound boxes of frozen beef trim were propelled forward, pushing the rear of the sleeper into the trees.
The driver was trapped in a small “V” shaped area of the cab between the dash and the rear of the sleeper. The dash had been pushed down onto his legs and the his feet were trapped between the floor and the bottom of the dash.
When crews first arrived to find the mangled vehicle off in the woods on the right shoulder, several other truck drivers had stopped to assist and were throwing the 50 pound boxes off of the cab.
They could hear the driver under the debris, but could not see him. The man suffered from multiple traumatic injuries and a head injury.
Initially, the driver stated there were three people in the vehicle with him. Additional ambulances and two medical helicopters were requested and a C.A.R.E. Flight flew to the Southbound Rest Area as Fire-Rescue units established a landing zone there, so they would not block the Interstate during the extended extrication.
Colleton County Fire-Rescue said crews deployed two sets of Holmatro hydraulic rescue tools and multiple hand tools, including reciprocating saws and pneumatic Ajax Tools. A chain saw was used to cut a path to the passenger side of the vehicle and a ground ladder was used to access the driver’s side.
The entire truck was covered with grease from the beef trim, making for some stability problems as rescuers worked to free the man.
Two separate crews worked independently on the rear of the cab and the passenger side in attempts to gain access to the man. The driver’s side was crushed into one of the pine trees and was inaccessible.
The man’s dog received non-life threatening injuries and extricated early in the incident.
After approximately 25 minutes, Firefighter-Paramedics were able to gain access to the patient’s head and one arm. An IV was established so fluids and pain medications could be administered.
The man was able to provide a telephone number for a family member, who was able to verify the driver was alone and the others he stated were in the truck were accounted for and not in the vehicle.
Crews continued the tedious extrication, removing small portions of the truck using a variety of tools to tunnel into the patient.
After 2-1/2 hours of slow progress, the man was extricated through the rear wall of the sleeper, and was transported to the southbound rest area to meet with C.A.R.E. Flight and flown to the Trauma Center at MUSC in Charleston.
Traffic on southbound I-95 was down to one lane for three hours.
Recovery crews worked most of the day Thursday to clear the vehicle and debris from the scene.
South Carolina Highway Patrol and State Transport Police are investigating the accident.