Cayce, SC (Paul Kirby) – A collision on I-26 west near the 115 mile-marker injured at least six people, several seriously, and brought I-26 to a nearly complete stop Wednesday afternoon shortly before 5:00 p.m. Lexington County’s EMS, their fire service, and law enforcement from several agencies were quickly dispatched to the wreck that involved several tractor trailers and other heavy trucks and several passenger vehicles. The 115 mile-marker is where Charleston Highway and I-26 intersect.
Lexington County’s Station 33 is within a short distance of the accident scene, but ironically, crews from the Irmo Fire District arrived within minutes of the first dispatch. No one has said what IFD equipment was doing that far from the district’s boundaries, but certainly no one complained as those well-trained, well equipped crews began coordinating the initial assessment. The Irmo Fire District, Lexington County, and the City of Columbia all have a long history of working and training together so when the Irmo equipment drove up on the wreck and began giving reports and rendering aid, everyone was glad any first responders were there quickly, no matter what was written on the side of the trucks.
The fire officer initially in command began reporting a chaotic scene. It sounded like a Hollywood choreographed stunt from a bad disaster movie. One tractor trailer truck had crossed the concrete Jersey Barriers in the center of the interstate and other vehicles were slamming into that and each other. Other heavy trucks became involved and several motorists were trapped in the wreckage of their vehicles as passenger cars became involved. Lexington County’s EMS and fire crews arrived quickly and blocked lanes to stop other unsuspecting motorists from hitting them or vehicles already involved.
All westbound (Greenville) lanes stopped, and traffic began backing up toward Charleston. Eventually, that traffic jam would stretch for several miles. There was at least one eastbound(Charleston) lane open for a short time, but traffic in that direction began backing up quickly too. Law enforcement officers were arriving from various agencies and the westbound entrance ramp from Charleston Highway to I-26 was closed.
The most critically injured, trapped motorists were extricated by firefighters within about 15 minutes of the call’s initial dispatch. Those patients were whisked away from the scene by Lexington County EMS crews rushing them to the Trauma Center at Prisma Health’s Palmetto Richland campus. EMS supervisors were triaging the remaining patients and those with non-life-threatening traumatic injuries were sent toward Lexington Medical Center. The SCHP eventually said that six were injured because of the collision.
Firefighters were also dealing with combustible and flammable liquids that were leaking from various vehicles involved. Those were running toward storm drains and crews quickly moved to dam up ditches so the contamination would stop spreading.
Even though fire and EMS crews worked intensely to complete their assigned tasks and began clearing the scene, the work of law enforcement was far from over. State troopers, coordinating with other agencies, began piecing together what happened while trying to get traffic moving again. Just having all the involved vehicles removed from the scene was monumental. Removing the truck that was sitting atop the concrete barrier was a long and arduous process.
The SCHP has not completed their investigation to be able to say exactly what started the chain reaction crash. It may be some time before a full report is completed.