3 dead in I-85 ‘death trap’ crash in South Carolina

Around the South

GAFFNEY, S.C. (WSPA) – Three people died in a Thursday afternoon crash in what Cherokee County Coroner Dennis Fowler called a “death trap” on Interstate-85.

The crash happened shortly before 3 p.m. in one of the single-lane “chutes” built for I-85 widening construction.

Seven vehicles were involved in the crash, according to the Cherokee County Coroner’s Office.

Two of the victims who were killed were identified as a husband and wife from Townville – 58-year-old Thomas Newman McElroy and 60-year-old Ruth Ann McElroy. The coroner’s office said both died from their injuries at the scene of the crash.

The third victim was identified as 60-year-old Karen Marie Goggin of Lake Frederick, Virginia. Goggin was the passenger in a Ford Focus. The driver of the Focus was taken to Spartanburg Medical Center for his injuries.

“These chutes should be called death traps,” Coroner Dennis Fowler said in a news release. “While state officials have endorsed them at 2 separate public meetings in Gaffney, I disagree with their being safe for motorists.”

“It seems none of those 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. Something must be done immediately,” Fowler continued. “We cannot lose any more lives at the sacrifice of a road project.”

SCDOT released a statement on the crash.

“SCDOT is working with law enforcement officials to gain a better understanding of the circumstances that led to the tragic crash on the I-85 construction project. This project has been plagued by crashes throughout the work zone, including crashes like this one that involved tractor trailers that were traveling in lanes designated for passenger vehicles only.

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.” 


Troopers said traffic was backed up for several miles due to the crash, which closed the interstate to traffic for more than four hours. Traffic is flowing at this time.

The community has started a petition calling for change, and it has over 800 signatures. It can be found here.

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