A devastating head-on collision claimed the lives of two people this morning on South Carolina 462, just outside of Ridgeland, forcing the South Carolina Highway Patrol to close down the highway. Crumpled metal and smoldering debris was all that remained after two semis hit head-on.
Jasper County Emergency Services director Mike Hodges said, "It's one of the worst that I've seen in quite some time." The trucks collided with incredible force, and Hodges confirms the fuel tanks exploded, killing one driver instantly. The other man died on the way to the hospital. The fiery wreckage shut down miles of Highway 462 for hours, spilling fuel and throwing debris everywhere.
"Most of the fuel was disposed of in the actual accident and in the fire," said Hodges. This posed some very real hazards for emergency crews. "The firefighters have air packs they can use, and we may at some point have to put the other workers in them also," said Hodges.
With damage this extensive, firefighters had to very carefully remove the trash bit by bit to make sure it was extinguished before it could be removed from the scene. "We will have to unload it a small amount at a time, and haul it away," explained Hodges. "The trash that one of the trucks was hauling is still burning, and it's going to take a period of time to get that out and to actually unload the truck."
The wreck was so devastating that authorities say Highway 462 will remain closed for as long as 48 hours. The heat from the explosion and fire melted the asphalt. Highway crews must repave that entire section before reopening it.