Fatality named in I-95 pileup; survivor recounts ordeal - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Fatality named in I-95 pileup; survivor recounts ordeal

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Robert Slater Robert Slater
Richard Ratliff Richard Ratliff
CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) -

A massive, deadly pileup shut down Interstate 95 northbound shut down the roadway for nearly eight hours Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. It happened near the Little Neck Road overpass, between I-16 and Ga. 204.

Wednesday afternoon, the Georgia State Patrol released the name of the motorcyclist who died, 25-year-old Richard Ratliff, of Savannah.

Trooper Joel Mock says preliminary results indicate Ratliff was speeding, heading southbound on I-95 when he collided with a Suburban that was merging into the left lane. His bike ricocheted off the SUV then flew over the guard rail. Ratliff was thrown from the motorcycle, and the bike flew into the northbound lanes.

The driver of a tractor-trailer swerved to avoid the motorcycle and overturned, Mock said, spilling debris across the road. Three cars traveling behind that tractor-trailer collided. 

Robert Slater was in one of those cars, headed to work at the Marriott Hotel. A Pooler Police Department report on the wreck shows Slater's car slamming into a Chevy S-10 then spinning into a Ford Explorer. Just two years younger than the motorcyclist who died in the wreck, Slater counts himself lucky. 

"My eyes were closed shut, tight," he said. "And either I blanked out or they were just that closed tight, because I was convinced in that moment. It came a moment that I was like, 'This is how I die."

Slater says he fell apart at the scene and was devastated when he found out someone had died. He credits a stranger, a woman about his same age, with getting him through it all.

"I didn't know her," he said. "And she didn't know me, but she let me know. She said, 'I'm here, and it's okay.' And I was crying, and she had her arms around me, and was just telling me, 'It's going to be alright."

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