A runaway 18-wheeler on the long, tall ramp connecting Interstate 26 eastbound and the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge sideswiped a car, rear-ended a state truck and crashed into a police cruiser before coming to a stop Monday morning, officials said.
The wreck left an ugly scene of twisted metal and clogged traffic, but no one was seriously injured.
State Transport Police determined that half the trailer brakes were not working on the flatbed rig hauling three forklifts, Charleston police Lt. Jason Emanuele said.
The tractor-trailer driver rounded the curve in the ramp about 80 mph, Emanuele said.
“I’m just going to call it a runaway truck because that’s what it was,” Emanuele said.
It could have been much worse had the out-of-control rig hit a disabled propane truck.
“That would have been awful,” he said.
Fortunately, the propane truck had moved on by that time.
The 18-wheeler’s driver, Leslie O’Quinn, 26, of Ridgeville had a beginner’s permit and was driving with a fully licensed commercial driver as his partner. He was cited with driving too fast for conditions, the S.C. Highway Patrol said.
When the accident happened about 9:30 a.m., a State Highway Emergency Program truck had just finished helping the broken-down propane truck and was parked in the right lane of the two-lane ramp with its lights flashing.
A Charleston police vehicle was in the other lane with blue lights flashing.
The trucker sideswiped a car before hitting the emergency vehicles.
The two officers were on the ramp, along with Charleston firefighters and a SHEP worker. They were all assisting the driver of the disabled propane truck, he said.
The 18-wheeler sideswiped a car, rear-ended the SHEP truck and then broadsided the cruiser while the officers were inside it, said police spokesman Charles Francis.
The Fire Department immediately removed one of the officers from the vehicle, but the other officer had to be extracted with rescue tools, he said.
The driver and passenger of the tractor-trailer were taken to a hospital to be checked out.
One of the officers, who was trapped in the cruiser, gave a thumbs-up sign after being freed by rescue workers, Francis said.
Police officers Sara Fortier and Rebecca Hadfield were treated at Medical University Hospital and released, police said.
The rear of the cruiser was crushed by the impact. The ramp was closed for five hours after the accident.
The S.C. Highway Patrol and Transport Police continue to investigate the wreck.