A chain of vehicle collisions that sent four people to area hospitals and shut down a section of U.S. 78 for more than an hour on Tuesday morning may have been the result of thick fog, according to the S.C. Highway Patrol.
According to Lance Cpl. Judd Jones, the initial collision happened at 9:25 a.m. on U.S. 78 just outside of the Aiken city limits. Five subsequent collisions happened after that.
“Fog may be a contributing factor that started off a chain of events,” Jones said, adding that four people were transported to area hospitals with minor injuries.
No charges had been filed as of Tuesday afternoon. State troopers and cleaning crews were on the scene until about 11 a.m.
Dense fog and low visibility greeted drivers on Tuesday morning, and the National Weather Service issued a dense fog advisory.
William Pierron, of Windsor, was one of the drivers involved in the multiple collisions.
“I was going down the road, and the visibility was low,” he said. “About 15 feet in front of me was this wreck that just happened, like two or three minutes before I got there.”
Pierron said his small Toyota pickup collided with a UPS truck that had struck a red pickup in front of it.
“The red truck was there first,” he said. “He pulled out in front of the semi. The Aiken County dog catcher stopped to help, then the UPS truck ran slap into him. I came shortly after that and ran into the UPS truck.”
Pierron said his vehicle was totaled. He was not injured.
“Pretty much, everybody’s OK, there’s no fatalities,” he said. “It could have been a lot worse. Luckily, nobody was really going that fast due to the fog.”
Keisha Stahl lives on Woodward Drive in Montmorenci, which runs parallel to Charleston Highway where the wrecks happened.
“My mom was outside feeding the dog and she heard ‘screech,’ and a crunch,” Stahl said. “I think, ‘There’s a wreck,’ not thinking anything of it. The next thing I know, cars are coming (down Woodward Drive), so we know there’s something going on on 78.”
Stahl said they saw a white truck had struck a white car, and that a Honda struck the back of the truck. After they heard the first collision, she and her mother went outside and stood on the railroad tracks.
“As we’re standing there, there was a gray truck that’s already been removed from the scene,” she said. “It rammed the back of a white truck, which hit a Pontiac, which hit the back of a Cadillac. It was a four- or five-car (wreck) just from that truck. After he hit them, I’m guessing he might have jerked a little bit because he scraped the side of all the cars he had already caused to hit each other.”
Elizabeth Crech, of Montmorenci, was traveling toward Aiken when she came upon the scene.
“I could see the cars were backed up, and I was driving slow due to the fog,” she said. “Sitting here and watching this wreck, I got out of my vehicle to see if we were going to move soon and a gentleman behind me got out. All of a sudden, we heard a screeching noise, we look back and the wreck behind us occurred.”
Crech said she and other motorists were “stuck” between the two wrecks until crews cleared the scene.
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime beat for the Aiken Standard. He is a graduate of Clemson University and hails from Williston.