County fire service engine hit while working wreck on I-20 near US 178
Samaria, SC (Paul Kirby) – A Lexington County Fire Service engine was struck by a car while the crew was working in a lane of traffic on I-20 near the scene of an earlier accident Saturday. The collision occurred at the entrance to the eastbound exit ramp at Fairview Road (US Hwy 178) on I-20 near the 39-mile marker.
At approximately 5:30 a.m. Saturday morning, a crew member from the engine out of one of Lexington County’s stations transmitted to the county’s dispatch center that his apparatus had been struck by a vehicle at that location. He also reported that county personnel had been injured and requested assistance from other fire stations and EMS. He confirmed that fire service personnel had been injured after being asked several times to confirm this by dispatch.
Almost immediately, Battalion Chief #1 out of Lexington, the field level chief for that region responded. Fire apparatus from Fairview, Round Hill, and Batesburg-Leesville also went enroute to offer their assistance. Senior fire service administrative staff also began responding to initiate the process of checking on county personnel and the other motorist that were involved in the crash.
Eyewitnesses on the scene reported that a silver Nissan sedan struck the fire truck on the passenger side near the back crew door. The front of the car went under the truck just behind the right fuel tank. Someone had draped the hood and windshield of the car with a sheet and equipment that appeared to have come from the bins on the passenger side of the fire truck were scattered in the road around the car. There were parts of the fire truck and the car that were also strewn across the interstate's shoulder. .
The fire crews were on the interstate for another accident that had occurred on the east side of the Fairview Road interchange. That wreck was dispatched just after 4:00 a.m. Multiple law enforcement agencies were on the scene of that accident doing their investigation when the second crash happened. The fire service had also responded to that scene, as had Lexington EMS.
Multiple agencies had already gathered on the second scene that involved the fire truck. There were a number of state troopers, Lexington County Sheriff Deputies, supervisory staff from the fire service and Lexington EMS, and at least one representative of the coroner’s office.
Fire crews are taught to use their heavy apparatus to block off lanes of traffic to make working scenes on the interstate and other roads safer. Drivers that may be inattentive when approaching or in the area of an accident would normally hit the heavy apparatus first, before they could strike any of the rescuers that were working in or near the roadway.
Although Lexington County has a fire station at Samaria, within a mile of the accident scene, it is common to respond with multiple pieces of fire equipment from several stations to the scene of an accident on the interstate. This is necessary because apparatuses aren’t able to cross the median because of the cable barriers. Once rescuers commit their equipment to a lane of the interstate, they often have to travel down to the next exit to flip back over to the opposing lane if that’s where an incident is located. This can seriously delay a response. The practice of responding by the two closest stations, one from each direction, in case a caller is confused about the direction of travel or vehicles crossed over the cable during a collision alleviates this problem.
This is not the first time a Lexington County fire engine has been hit on the interstate. Last August, the engine out of Corley Mill station was struck by another vehicle while the crew was fighting a car fire on I-20.
Harrison Cayhill, spokesman for Lexington County, was contacted at approximately 6:00 a.m. Saturday to enquire about the crash. At that time, Cayhill said that the county was in the early stages of their assessment of the situation and that all information regarding the details of the collision would come from the SCHP.
At 8:00 a.m., no official update from the county has been received regarding if any of their personnel was injured and if so, how many and what their conditions were. We will update this story as we learn more.