SUV overturns on bypass in single-vehicle wreck

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By Jesef Williams

Rose Cauthen just finished paying her electric bill Friday when she saw an SUV land in a ditch upside down.

She screamed and then got out of her car to help.

Thomas Everett Baker, 62, of Rock Hill was driving a red 2000 GMC Jimmy SUV on the S.C. 9 Bypass when he ran off the road and landed in a ditch in front of the Townview Center strip mall.

The wreck happened shortly after noon.

Cauthen said Baker, who was traveling westbound on the bypass, swerved into the other side of the four-lane highway and was riding in the median momentarily.

He never regained control and ran off the right side of the westbound side.

"He was on the wrong side of the road, flying," Cauthen said, while overlooking the shattered glass from the vehicle scattered in the ditch. "He was going too fast. I thought he was in an emergency or something."

S.C. Highway Patrol Trooper Jason Smith wasn't able to determine exactly how fast Baker was traveling, but said it was too fast. The speed limit is 45 mph.

No other vehicle was involved in the accident.

"He was driving too fast for his ability to maintain control of the vehicle," the trooper said.

Baker was flown to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, where he was listed in good condition late Friday afternoon.

Terry Gaskin, owner of Online Computers in Townview Center, was preparing to turn onto the bypass when Baker wrecked.

Gaskin had to release Baker's seat belt to free him from the vehicle. Gaskin also helped douse flames that erupted from the bottom of the vehicle.

Someone else called 911 and Gaskin helped keep Baker warm until first responders came.

"As soon as he flipped, flames came up out of the car," Gaskin said.

Alcohol was not a factor in the accident, Smith said.

Smith said Baker has been charged with driving too fast for conditions.

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