Low Country Accident Under Further Investigation - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

06/18/05

Low Country Accident Under Further Investigation

Truck hit by erratic driver. Truck hit by erratic driver.

A Beaufort County sheriff's deputy pulled over 52-year old Phillip Lewis of St. Helena. He was allowed to go -- and just a quarter mile later police say he crossed the center line and hit a tractor trailer head on.

Because they were on the McTeer bridge -- the driver of the tractor trailer had nowhere to go. Deputy Steve Rogers reported that, "he stayed true to his direction of travel. The other vehicle apparently did cross the center line." The resulting collision sent Lewis to the hospital in serious condition -- and completely shut down one of beaufort county s busiest roads. Ann Herschman said, "I came up on the bridge and I've been sitting here for more than two hours."

The question now, though, is did investigators miss a chance to prevent this accident? Police had gotten calls about Lewis driving erratically.  The officer who pulled him over, then let him go, is suspended while the sheriff's office investigates and looks at the dashboard video taken from the officer's patrol car.

Since the accident happened in Port Royal, their police department is handling that investigation. They tell WTOC that they're still waiting on the results of a blood alcohol level test from Lewis,  who was airlifted to the Medical Universsity of South Carolina in Charleston.

The sheriff s office is not releasing the name of the officer who is under suspension -- but they have said he s a five year veteran of the force who s had a clean record until now.

Reported by: Chris Cowperthwaite, ccowperthwaite@wtoc.com

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