October 9, 2015

Fire Chief: Driver who drowned near Lugoff had gone around barricade

Image: State Sen. Vincent Sheheen

Image: State Sen. Vincent Sheheen

Kershaw County officials are urging the public to stay off treacherous roads, after a man’s body was pulled from his vehicle early Monday.

The county coroner’s office later identified the victim as 72-year-old McArthur Woods. A female passenger who was with Woods was rescued on Sunday evening, but the crews could not reach the driver in time.

Lugoff Fire Chief Dennis Ray told South Carolina Radio Network that emergency crews were not even aware of the wreck until a Kershaw County deputy who had stopped at the floodwaters heard the passenger calling for help around 11:20 p.m. Sunday. Rescuers were able to get to the passenger in time, but Ray said they had to call off the effort to reach Woods after the situation became too dangerous around 2:30 a.m. They did not recover Woods’ body until daylight returned.

He became the ninth death statewide that was blamed on the storm and its ensuing floods. All nine deaths have occurred on roads, due to either collisions or floodwaters.

Ray said authorities had barricaded Pine Grove Road, where the incident occurred, earlier in the day. The chief said it was not a unique situation either: they having a problem with drivers who are simply driving round barricades on closed roads or even moving them in some cases.

“Our biggest issue right now is that we have roads that are barricaded, they are blocked off by cones and folks are still going around the barricade,” he said.

He said just because the road may not be flooded, it still may be compromised and a danger to traffic. State regulations do not allow flood-damaged roads to be opened again until Department of Transportation engineers inspect them.

One of Kershaw County’s primary north-south connections U.S. 601 south of town also remains closed due to a bridge being damaged. “We basically lost part of a bridge there and that is our major thoroughfare here between Eastover and Lugoff, heavily traveled by commercial vehicles,” Ray said. The route is normally the quickest one for trucks traveling to and from Camden or Lugoff to access Charleston and points south.

They were able to get one major connection towards Charlotte opened. “We were able to open up S.C. Highway 34, so it is now open between Lugoff and Ridgeway,” Ray said.

SCDOT maintenance worker among those killed in flooding

Forest Acres and Southeast Columbia were among the worst-hit areas

Forest Acres and Southeast Columbia were among the worst-hit areas

A South Carolina highway maintenance worker is among the nine dead from flooding and storms that lashed the state this weekend.

The state Department of Transportation (SCDOT) confirmed Monday that 45-year-old Timothy Gibson died in flood waters along flooded Garners Ferry Road in southeast Columbia on Sunday. In a statement, the agency said Gibson was overseeing work being done at that location when the truck he was riding in got caught in rushing flood waters, overturned and was swept downstream. He had been reported missing before his body was found late Sunday.

Richland County Coroner Gary Watts said an autopsy will be performed Monday, but said it appeared the cause of death was drowning.

“The entire SCDOT family grieves for the loss of Timothy Gibson,” Acting Secretary Christy Hall said in a statement. “We are proud of the way he served the citizens of South Carolina. He did not hesitate to put his life on the line to protect the public during the current state of emergency. All of us at SCDOT offer our thoughts and prayers for Timothy Gibson and his family,” she added.

Gibson was a highway worker in SCDOT’s Richland Maintenance Unit and a Columbia native. He has a wife, two daughters and a son, according to SCDOT. He is the second road maintenance worker killed in Richland County this year. A crew leader Paul Fee was killed in March after he was struck by a hit-and-run driver north of the city.


Concerns about worst flooding now in Grand Strand, coastal plain

A National Guard vehicle plunged into floodwaters Sunday. All involved were okay. Adjutant Gen. Robert Livingston said the roadway "dissolved" as the truck drove over it (Image: SCNG)

A National Guard vehicle plunged into floodwaters Sunday. All involved were okay. Adjutant Gen. Robert Livingston said the roadway “dissolved” as the truck drove over it (Image: SCNG)

Officials are strongly urging drivers to stay off the roads in the Midlands for a third straight day as they check to see whether previously flooded bridges are safe to cross.

Meanwhile, state emergency crews are centering their attention on the Myrtle Beach and upper Charleston region. Flash flood warnings remain in effect in Georgetown, Horry, Marion, and Williamsburg counties as the National Weather Service predicts 2-5 inches of rain will fall before noon Monday.

Seven deaths have been reported statewide during the storm — all occurred along roadways. Three of the fatalities happened within 24 hours in Columbia on Sunday. Among those lost in the flooding was a state Department of Transportation employee whose vehicle was swept away by the rushing water. SCDOT identified the maintenance employee as 45-year-old Timothy Gibson.

The National Weather Service reported that more than 16 inches of rain was reported in southeast Columbia on Sunday. On the opposite side of town, all-time records were set at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport for one-day, two days, and three-day rainfall totals.

Statewide, the Highway Patrol said on Sunday night alone its troopers worked 148 collisions, 125 calls for assisting motorists, 53 trees in road, 66 reports of flooding. More than 540 road and bridge closings are in place statewide. (See a complete list here)

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Volvo announces the model it will build at Berkley County plant

Volvo Cars of North America CEO Lex Kerssemakers leads various South Carolina dignitaries in Friday's groundbreaking

Volvo Cars of North America CEO Lex Kerssemakers leads various South Carolina dignitaries in Friday’s groundbreaking

Volvo Automotive announced Friday that it will build the next-generation S60 compact sedan at its new South Carolina plant.

Company officials made the announcement at a groundbreaking ceremony for Volvo’s new $500 million assembly plant in Berkeley County. The facility, when complete, will be Volvo’s first in North America. The company said it hopes to create up to 2,000 jobs at the site by 2020.

“Today’s groundbreaking proves that Volvo Cars follows promises with action,” said Volvo North America CEO Lex Kerssemakers, “Volvo is moving quickly to expand its presence in the United States with new cars, new engines and now, a new factory.”

Volvo is in the process of developing the third-generation S60 sedan at its headquarters in Sweden. The current generation S60 model is assembled in Belgium, but the company hopes to roll its first South Carolina-built Volvos off the assembly line by late 2018. Volvo also hopes to eventually build a second model in Berkeley County, which it said could bring the site’s total workforce to 4,000 employees.

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Michelin to halt production at Starr plant

Image courtesy: Michelin

A forklift props up an Earthmover tire in this image provided by Michelin (Image: Michelin)

Tire manufacturer Michelin confirmed Wednesday that it plans to halt operations at an Anderson County plant that makes large mining truck wheels.

A spokesman for Michelin’s North American operations said the company plans to move the roughly 100 employees at its Starr plant to other company locations by the end of the year. “The plant and its equipment will be maintained so that operations can restart in a timely manner when market conditions improve and customer demand increases,” spokesman Eric Bruner said in an email Wednesday.

The Anderson Independent-Mail first reported the company’s plans.

Michelin’s plant in Starr was relatively new and only opened in 2013 adjacent to the company’s rubber processing facility. It builds the company’s large “Earthmover” tires that are used on large mining or construction trucks. The tires can stand up to 13 feet tall and weigh up to 5.5 tons.

Bruner said the company will be able to keep up with the smaller current demand for the Earthmover tires through its Lexington County facility. Michelin also operates two other factories in Anderson County.

The Anderson County Council had approved an incentive agreement for Michelin in February 2012 that includes tax breaks and waived fees.