Fatal accident closes Talmadge, Back River bridges for most of a day

March 15, 2011 

The driver of a tractor-trailer boom truck died Tuesday after the truck hit a curb and overturned on the Back River Bridge near the Talmadge Bridge in South Carolina.

The accident happened about 11:40 a.m., according to the S.C. Highway Patrol. Both bridges were closed for most of the day. One lane was reopened about 5 p.m., then the S.C. Department of Transportation declared the bridge safe and opened all lanes at about 7 p.m.

The west wall of the Back River Bridge has been barricaded with barrels to stand in for portions of the guardrail that were destroyed. Work will resume Wednesday to make repairs and the bridges may be closed again for several hours, according to a news release from Savannah-Chatham Metro Police.

Kenneth D. Smith, 54, of Waynesville, Ga., was driving south on U.S. 17 when the accident happened. The trailer came to rest across both lanes, its cab dangling over the side of the bridge. Crews from Savannah Fire and Emergency Services worked for more than two hours to get Smith out of the cab, according to a fire department news release.

Crews had to stabilize the cab of the truck and secure Smith, then place ladders in the marsh and climb up about 25 feet to reach Smith, according to a news release. They also had to use the Jaws of Life to cut away portions of the vehicle and lift the truck's cab to free Smith. Using ropes and pulleys, they put Smith in a basket and swung him onto the roadway.

He was transported by LifeStar air ambulance to Memorial Health University Medical Center. He died at about 5:45 p.m., according to the Jasper County Coronor's Office.

The S.C. Highway Patrol is investigating the accident.

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