Following multiple deadly crashes on I-85 near Gaffney in 2021, local leaders and residents are asking South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster and the SCDOT to take a stand and fix the dangers created by construction routing on I-85 in Gaffney. As of July 29, 2021, a petition for changing the use of concrete barriers in this work zone had more than 12,000 signatures.
Cherokee County officials have already blamed several deaths and injuries on the two single-lane “chutes” that the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) created to move traffic around the widening project near Exit 90. These chutes are tight, single lanes with barrier walls on both sides.
Local and state officials disagree on the dangers of these chutes
According to The Gaffney Ledger, Cherokee County Coroner Dennis Fowler referred to this method of rerouting traffic around the work zone as “a death trap.” He believes SCDOT should take a different, safer approach to rerouting traffic during this project for the safety of motorists and their passengers.
There have been at least two public meetings about this routing concern, but Gaffney says SCDOT continues to endorse the narrow chutes. Coroner Fowler believes the SCDOT and state officials are turning a blind eye to the chute issue, comparing a vehicle trapped in the chute with being stuck in a house on fire with no doors or windows to escape. “It seems none of these officials are around to ride with me to knock on the doors of next of kin to deliver the message a loved one has been killed in this maze of concrete,” he said.
Fowler believes the state agency needs to address the issue immediately before more lives are lost for this widening project.
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SCDOT continues to defend the widening project
According to a report by Fox Carolina, SCDOT issued a statement about the frequent crashes in this work zone, acknowledging they are occurring but blaming them entirely on negligent truck drivers. They said that tractor-trailers are traveling in lanes designated for cars and other passenger vehicles, thus creating the danger.
“We will continue our efforts with law enforcement and local first responders to identify and implement additional measures designed to get motorists to slow down, pay attention and stay in the proper lanes,” according to their statement. After mounting pressure from the community, the SCDOT has finally agreed to remove the chutes, but not for several months while paving work is completed. But upstate truck accident attorney, Paul Hammack of Hammack Law Firm, believes that more can be done now to minimize deadly crashes on I-85 as hundreds of thousands of cars travel this stretch of roadway weekly.
A three-fatality, eight-car pile-up led to additional scrutiny of the work zone
Hammack Law Firm represents the family of a mother that died in this chute when a tractor-trailer negligently crashed into her vehicle stopped in traffic on March 18, 2021. She had nowhere to go, and her vehicle burst into flames when it was crushed between the concrete barrier and the tractor-trailer loaded with grain.
When three people tragically died on I-85 in Gaffney in another preventable accident on July 15, 2021, it sparked further outrage over the situation in this construction zone. According to reports that WYFF News 4 published, the eight-car pile-up occurred just before 3 p.m. in one of the southbound chutes near Exit 90.
Seven cars were stopped in traffic when a tractor-trailer failed to stop and rear-ended them, according to the South Carolina Highway Patrol. Six people required treatment for minor or moderate injuries, and three passed away. The fatal injuries included:
- Thomas Newman McElroy, 58, of Townville
- Ruth Ann McElroy, 60, of Townville
- Karen Marie Goggin, 60, of Virginia
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Hammack Law Firm supports safer routing through Spartanburg and Gaffney on I-85
At Hammack Law Firm, our team regularly handles claims for victims of truck accidents. We know how devastating these crashes can be, leaving families dealing with catastrophic injuries and wrongful deaths.
While we will continue to fight for these families and help them recover compensation based on their injuries and economic losses, we would rather help prevent these collisions to begin with.
Our firm is an ardent proponent of changing trucking and truck-related public safety policy. This is why we support the local groups fighting for changes in routing and better overall safety surrounding the I-85 widening project. We believe:
- The appropriate agencies must truly assess the dangers of these concrete chute designs.
- Authorities minimize or eliminate the use of concrete barriers in construction zones to provide means of ingress and egress for the motoring public.
- Construction zones need better signage, especially at night when drivers can become distracted and tired.
- All installation and maintenance of traffic control devices and lane closures in construction zones should follow the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) and the SCDOT should enforce these minimum standards.
- Law enforcement should be given the resources to monitor and enforce safe speed limits and use of lanes by commercial trucks in construction zones.
- More thorough investigations into safety should occur before future projects.
Our team will always fight for the proper and effective safety measures on South Carolina highways and interstates. We know that this will protect our neighbors, family, and friends from serious injuries or fatal accidents.
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We help truck accident victims protect their rights after a collision
If you were hurt in a traffic accident in this area of I-85, our team is here for you. Hammack Law Firm seeks justice for accident victims by fighting for their financial recovery. While most South Carolina truck collision claims ultimately settle before trial, we are not afraid to take a case to trial—even if we are fighting a state agency or large trucking defense firm.
Under South Carolina law, the truck driver and their employer are generally liable for any accident caused by negligence. However, we believe victims may have a strong case against the SCDOT and the contractors responsible for designing, installing and maintaining the I-85 work zone near Gaffney.
Our goal is always to:
- Hold all negligent parties accountable for their careless actions
- Secure fair financial compensation for each client that is appropriate for their injuries and losses
We also strive to make South Carolina a safer place for everyone, including our clients and their families. This is why we take a strong stance on public safety issues such as the I-85 construction widening project in Spartanburg and Gaffney.