The drivers of two tractor trailers and another motorist were killed Saturday morning on a stretch of Interstate 85 in Anderson County, South Carolina, after one of the commercial trucks, traveling in the southbound lanes, veered over into the northbound section of the highway and struck another 18-wheeler head on. The horrific crash injured at least two other motorists and left hundreds stranded for hours in sweltering mid-day heat.
According to South Carolina State Troopers, 69-year-old Eddie Wyatt of Rockmart, Georgia, was driving southbound when his truck, bearing a “U.S. Mail Contractor” insignia on its door, veered across the highway median and crashed into traffic in the northbound lanes. The Anderson County Coroner’s Office reported that Mr. Wyatt had fallen asleep at the wheel.
The driver of the northbound truck that was struck head-on, Clay Lashawn Johnson, 38, also died at the scene of the crash. The impact caused Mr. Johnson’s truck to jackknife and collide with a pick-up truck towing a boat and an SUV. The driver of the pick-up, Jeremy Scott Wilson, 33, of Blacksburg, S.C., was killed in the crash. According to the Independent Mail, Mr. Wilson had left his home around 10 a.m. headed to Hartwell Lake with his bass boat for fishing.
“Two tractor-trailers were damaged beyond repair in the wreck. The cab of one of the trucks became completely detached and landed down an embankment on the side of the road, requiring rescuers to rappel down to reach it,” the Independent Mail reported.
The two people who were airlifted to the hospital were traveling in the SUV. They are expected to survive their injuries. The Independent Mail also reported that medics and firefighters launched a larger relief effort to tend to the motorists stranded on the highway behind the jackknifed tuck, providing water and medical attention to anyone who needed it. Several vehicles ran out of gas or overheated, but no major injuries occurred before the traffic began to flow again at 5 p.m.
“It is one of the worst I’ve seen in 24 years of firefighting,” Anderson County Fire Chief Billy Gibson told the Independent Mail.
Driving while fatigued is so lethal that it is often compared to drunk driving. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 36 percent of Americans polled admitted to nodding off or falling asleep behind the wheel. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that there are 100,000 fatigued-driving related crashes annually in the U.S., injuring 71,000 people and killing 1,550. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says that crashes caused by fatigued drivers of commercial trucks and buses kill 750 people and injure 20,000 others.
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