Big Rig Strikes S.C. Overpass Columns; 2 Dead

GREENVILLE, S.C. --

A fiery crash along Interstate 85 will leave the highway closed to northbound traffic for days, according to the South Carolina Department of Transportation.

The Highway Patrol said a tractor-trailer crashed into a bridge support column and burst into flames just after 2:30 a.m. Sunday. It happened in the northbound lane under the SC Highway 150 overpass.

Cherokee County, S.C., Coroner Dennis Fowler said a 2010 Freightliner truck was pulling a box trailer. He said the truck was operated by Network Communications of Lawrenceville, Ga. and the team drivers were enroute to the northeast with deliveries of printed materials scheduled for Virginia, New York and Pennsylvania according to company officials.

Fowler said the crash killed two people in the truck.

"The driver was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected coming to rest on the right shoulder of the roadway. Once the massive fire was brought under control, a second victim was discovered in the sleeper section of the truck. Both victims were pronounced dead at the scene. I am currently working to identify both and make notification to next of kin. Their names are being withheld until this is done," Fowler said in a written statement.

Fowler said Department of Transportation engineers had to examine the bridge for safety before allowing the recovery effort to continue.

The crash remains under investigation.

The SCDOT closed I-85 northbound at Exit 92. Traffic is being detoured off the interstate at exits 90 and 92, and allowed back onto the interstate at the 96 mile marker.

This map shows the detour on I-85 northbound at the SC 150 bridge in Cherokee County.

SCDOT district 4 engineering administrator John McCarter said I-85 northbound will be closed for as long as 48 to 72 hours as crews remove damaged parts of the bridge.

He said it may take weeks before the bridge will be reopened on SC Highway 150.

SCDOT officials said to expect a delay of as long as 40 minutes during regular traffic times and longer during rush hour.

Cherokee County Sheriff Steve Mueller advised commuters to call 511 for traffic information and warned drivers not to trust GPS directions in the area of the detour.

Mueller said both lanes of traffic on a stretch Wilcox Avenue will be directed northbound during the detour and that businesses and people living along the road have been notified of the change.

"(Monday morning), Tuesday morning, Wednesday morning, this is going to alter your travel plans to and from work and school very adversely," Mueller said, addressing local communters. "We need you to avoid the Highway 11 interchange -- it is closed."

Mueller said his office was also coordinating with the Cherokee County School District to avoid school delays.

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