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Gregory A. Summers
S.C. State Trooper David Lloyd has always been a strong advocate of wearing seat belts.
His opinion of the preventative safety measure deepened Wednesday morning when three teenagers involved in a one-car wreck on Dixie School Road escaped life-threatening injuries.
The impact was so great when the 15-year-old driver – whose name the highway patrol would not release because of her age – landed against a tree that the rear bumper and license plate of the 2000, 4-door Saturn she was driving was crushed and pushed up into the back seat where Beth Tomlim, 14, 1954 McIlwain Road, was trapped.
The driver was trapped inside the wreckage too.
The front seat passenger, Elizabeth Catoe, 15, 4053 Pageland Highway, was able to get out.
Lloyd said all three girls were wearing seat belts.
The driver and Tomlin were flown to Carolinas Medical Center and Catoe was taken to Springs Memorial Hospital.
Lloyd said seat belts clearly made the difference.
“That’s a prime example right there,” Lloyd said. “Without them (seat belts), someone would’ve been thrown out with this kind of impact.”
The wreck happened about 9:22 a.m., said S.C. Highway Patrol Lance Cpl. Jeff Gaskin.
The driver was headed southeast on Dixie Road, when she veered across the lane, and struck a slanted, 3-foot-high bank, where the car dug a deep gash, and launched into the air, flipping over several times before hitting a tree about 12 feet off the roadway.
Gaskin said the driver had just rounded a curve when she lost control.
“Right now, no charges have been made against the driver and it is still under investigation,” Gaskin said. “However, initial reports show that excessive speed may be a factor.”
T.C. Carnes, who lives across the street, said he was sitting in his living room with the door open when he heard the crash.
“It was rolling and twisting and flipping and flopping,” said Carnes, who ran to the scene to see if he could help. “The car then turned around and hit a tree.”
Doug Whitley, who was listening on a police scanner when the wreck was reported, arrived within minutes.
For Whitley, whose daughter, Heather, was seriously injured in a wreck several years ago on Pageland Highway, this wreck had a familiar feel to it.
Whitley said when he looked inside the car to see if the driver and Tomlin were OK, Tomlin, who was pinned in the back seat, grabbed his hand.
“She was holding my hand so tight that it just went numb,” Whitley said. “But I wasn’t about to walk off.”
Firefighters from Buford and Tradesville volunteer fire departments and Lancaster County Rescue Squad members, along with EMS arrived within minutes and set about freeing the two girls from the mangled wreckage.
Whitley said he is thankful that none of the three girls were seriously hurt.
“That’s not a good feeling for a parent to have,” he said. “I know because I’ve been there.”
with teen drivers
Gaskin said with the school year now under way, it’s important for parents to discuss the importance of safe driving with teenage drivers.
“Now is the perfect time for an open and honest conversation about aggressive driving, speeding and general automobile safety, including wearing a seat belt,” the trooper said. “It’s a given that something is going to happen somewhere with school starting back. Sitting them down for a heart-to-heart talk abut their driving habits is definitely a good idea.”
Contact features editor Gregory Summers at 283-1156