An accident involving three tractor-trailers and two passenger vehicles on Interstate 26 in Calhoun County claimed the life a Tennessee woman and sent four to the hospital Thursday morning.
Traffic on the westbound lane of I-26 was detoured into the night as crews cleaned up the accident. One of the tractor-trailers spilled a number of old batteries, and sulfuric acid and diesel fuel leaked onto the interstate.
"Two trucks are on their sides, pretty much blocking most of the westbound lane," Calhoun County Emergency Medical Services Director Bill Minikiewicz said as the cleanup continued. "There is a 150-foot hot zone established around the area of the spill. ...
"This is a major accident."
According to reports by the S.C. Highway Patrol, the accident occurred at approximately 9 a.m. at mile marker 121.
The collision appears to have started as a 2005 Chrysler minivan driven Pamela Nadeau, 68, of Florida, was traveling east alongside a 2001 tractor-trailer driven by Leroy Jones, 57, of North Carolina, S.C. Highway Patrol Lance Cpl. Judd Jones said.
The two vehicles collided and traveled into the median, through the cable barriers and into the westbound lanes, Lance Cpl. Jones said.
The vehicles then collided with a second tractor-trailer driven by Edward Prim, 58, of North Carolina, and a 2010 Pontiac G6 driven by Jamie J. Cortinas, 47, of Hendersonville, Tenn.
Cortinas died at the scene of multiple blunt force trauma, Calhoun County Coroner Donnie Porth said.
Cortinas' daughter, Kelly Fussman, 17, also of Hendersonville, was transported to the trauma center at Richland Memorial Hospital by Calhoun County EMS.
Minikiewicz said Fussman was alert and talking at the scene. Her injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.
The Calhoun County EMS team also transported Nadeau and the truck drivers to the hospital. Minikiewicz said Nadeau's injuries are thought to be serious.
A third tractor-trailer driven by Evanglish Wright, 48, of Florence, was not able to slow down and jackknifed. He did not have any injuries.
Toxicology reports are pending and the accident is still under investigation.
About 20,000 pounds of batteries were on one of the trucks. The entire load did not spill.
Minikiewicz said the spill was contained to the scene of the accident.
Eastbound traffic was slow moving and stagnant at times, and motorists traveling in eastbound lanes were also encouraged by the Highway Patrol to look for alternate routes. Traffic was backed up to seven miles at times.
Officials with the South Carolina Highway Patrol have reported a traffic fatality on Interstate Highway 26 in Calhoun County that has resulted in westbound lanes of traffic being closed.
According to reports by the highway patrol, the accident occurred at approximately 9 a.m. at mile maker 121 and involved three tractor trailers and two cars.
The deceased has been listed as Jamie J. Cortinas, 47, of Hendersonville, Tennessee.
Calhoun County coroner Donnie Porth said Cortinas died of multiple blunt force trauma. Cortinas was traveling with one passenger, daughter Kelly Fussman, 17, who Porth said was alert at the scene and speaking with officials.
Porth said toxicology reports are pending, and the accident still under investigation.
According to the highway patrol, Cortinas was driving a rented, white, Pontiac G6.
Sources reported that one tractor trailer may have lost control in the eastbound lane, crossed the median and collided with oncoming traffic in the westbound lanes.
"Two trucks are on their sides, pretty much blocking most of the westbound lane," said Calhoun County EMS director Bill Minikiewicz. "One contained old batteries and there is a spill of sulfuric acid on the scene."
Minikiewicz said that when he left the scene at approximately 10:15 a.m. officials had estimated the westbound lanes of I-26 would be closed for at least six hours.
"There is a 150-foot hot zone established around the area of the spill", Minikiewicz said. "So you can't let traffic through there. ... This is a major accident."
Minikiewicz said that as of 10:15 a.m. the Calhoun County EMS team had transported one patient to the trauma center at Richland Memorial Hospital and one patient to Lexington Medical Center. He said Lexington EMS had transported at least two patients to Lexington Medical Center.
S.C. Highway Patrol Lance Cpl. Judd Jones confirmed that westbound traffic on I-26 will be blocked for several hours.
"We have set up a detour," Jones said. "We encourage people traveling westbound to follow the detour set up and at all turns avoid I-26 westbound. We encourge travelers to take an alternative route if they have one."
The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) estimates the westbound lanes of I-26 will remain closed until sometime Thursday evening.
The detour in place is routing westbound traffic off the interstate at exit 129 onto US 21 and back to I-26 at exit 119.
Eastbound lanes remain open and clear although there are reports of heavy traffic congestion due to motorists reducing speeds at the collision scene.
SCDOT electronic message boards have been activated to alert motorists leaving Charleston County on I-26, as well as along I-95 near I-26.
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