Crumbling road swallows up truck, car in hurricane-battered SC county

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People who live on a lonely stretch of road near Chesterfield were shaking their heads Monday after a tractor-trailer loaded with soft drinks crashed through a gaping hole in the pavement and hurtled into a rain-swollen creek.

It was one of two wrecks that occurred on a two-mile stretch of S.C. 145 north of Chesterfield about 6 a.m. Monday. In both cases, vehicles wrecked when sections of the asphalt highway collapsed in the aftermath of flooding due to Hurricane Florence.

Officials with the S.C. Highway Patrol would not provide details of either wreck.

But the accidents had neighbors buzzing.

Many were stunned that the drivers and passengers in both crashes walked away with only minor injuries.

Some said they were stunned at how rising waters in creeks affected the road, which never had flooded before, much less broken.

Cambo Streater, chief deputy with the Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Department, said Hurricane Florence caused multiple automobile accidents across the county, but most resulted from people driving into standing water.

In two cases, however, a road fell apart, which Streater said was unusual. But with all the flooding that is occurring, Streater said motorists should be wary when crossing creeks until waters recede.

“It could happen again,’’ he said. “Water running that fast weakens the road.”

The truck crash had people visiting the site for much of the day.

The huge red transfer truck, which authorities said was on a run to Roanoke, Va., lay nose down in Jimmy’s Creek as work crews tried to salvage its cargo. Surrounding the truck were chunks of pavement that fell apart when Jimmy’s Creek overtopped the road early Monday.

“I could hear the water. I was just praying the person was OK,’’ said Ashley Roscoe, who lives up the hill from the site of the truck crash. “It looked so bad to me.’’

Stanton Shepherd was among those visiting the truck crash site about midday Monday to survey the damage. While there, he looked grimly at the bright red cab lying in the creek. The broken front windshield reminded him of how lucky the driver was to escape alive.

“It’s a mess,’’ Shepherd said. “But he made it out.’’

The truck driver, whose name was not available, was so shaken by the wreck that he questioned whether he would continue in the trucking business, said Bob Robeson, a Chesterfield firefighter who was among the first on the scene.

“He was, obviously, shaken up,’’ Robeson said. “He told me, ‘My trucking days might be over.’ He said, ‘I ain’t never done nothing like this. ‘ ‘’

Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Department deputy John Livergood helped the driver climb through a truck window as creek water swelled around the cab.

As the truck accident was occurring in the predawn hours Monday, David Bennett was having his own problems maneuvering on another stretch of S.C. 145, close to the North Carolina border.

The 43-year-old Bennett was driving home to Anson County, N.C., when his car hit a hole in the pavement, sending it careening sideways toward the thundering waters of a creek swollen by Florence’s torrential rains.

Bennett’s girlfriend and their two young children, one only 2 months old, cried and screamed as Bennett fought to control the sedan. He was unable to keep it on the road. The car turned on its side inside the hole in the pavement.

Bennett had to pull his children and girlfriend from the car through the driver’s side window.

“I was just driving down the road, then, the next thing I know, I hit this bump and the car came down, and ended up like that,’’ Bennett said, looking at his car hanging off what was left of the broken road.

Bennett said he and his family were fortunate to have survived. His two children escaped without injury. His girlfriend suffered a broken ankle but otherwise was unscathed. Bennett made it through the crash without a scratch.

Even so, it was a frightening moment on what should have been an uneventful Monday morning, he said.

“I was on my way to work,’’ he said. “I was scared at first because I heard all that water.’’