Authorities are investigating a deadly underride crash that killed one person and critically injured two others when the van they were in collided with the back of a tractor-trailer in Beaufort, South Carolina, Feb. 17.
The underride crash occurred around 7:20 a.m. when for reasons not yet known the van crashed into the back of the tractor-trailer. According to Charleston’s ABC News Channel 4, the City of Beaufort-Town of Port Royal Fire Department said all three van occupants were significantly entrapped in the wreckage.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires tractor-trailers to be equipped with rear underride guards to prevent passenger vehicles from lodging under the larger vehicle. Despite the requirement, however, many underride guards aren’t strong enough to withstand an impact.
With most of the van’s front end wedged underneath the tractor-trailer in the Beaufort crash, firefighters and EMS responders had to work simultaneously to hoist the tractor-trailer from the van and tend to the victims.
“We had a major extrication that had to occur at the same time potentially lifesaving medical treatment needed to occur,” said City of Beaufort-Town of Port Royal Battalion Chief Larry Deloach, according to ABC News 4. “The air crews and ground paramedics worked flawlessly, side by side with the firefighters who were cutting and spreading on the car, to give these two patients the best chance possible at survival.”
Firefighters used a system of rescue airbags, wood cribbing, and blocks to raise the trailer while paramedics accessed the victims, one of whom was pronounced dead at the scene. The other two crash victims were freed within an hour and airlifted by helicopter to the hospital.
In December 2017, a bipartisan bill called the Stop Underrides Act was introduced to the Senate. The bill would require tractor-trailers and other heavy vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds to install side underride guards. The bill would also require the U.S. Department of Transportation to review the underride standards every five years for improvement or modification and to raise the standards for rear-underride guard strength. Congress has not taken any action on that bill.