Migrant worker killed in St. Helena crash

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comJune 5, 2012 

The S.C. Highway Patrol is investigating the cause of a fiery crash Monday night that killed a migrant worker and caused a power outage on St. Helena Island.

Andres Ramirez-Diaz, 24, was killed at about 10:20 p.m. when the 2000 Ford Explorer he was driving ran off the right side of Coffin Point Road, struck a utility pole and several trees, overturned in a ditch, and burst into flames, according to Highway Patrol spokesman Cpl. Bob Beres.

Ramirez-Diaz was nearly burned beyond recognition and pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Beaufort County Coroner's Office.

It is unclear whether he was wearing a seat belt, Beres said.

Ramirez-Diaz was a Guatemalan national with a work visa, picking and packaging crops on St. Helena Island, Deputy Coroner David Ott said.

Ott said an autopsy would be performed this week to determine whether Ramirez-Diaz was killed in the initial crash or died in the fire.

The Lady's Island-St. Helena Island Fire District was delayed in fighting the blaze by downed power lines in the road, district spokesman Lee Levesque said.

"We had issues getting to the driver because of the electrical hazard and concerns about the electrical wires arcing," Levesque said. "We were able to put the fire out from a safe distance, but the damage done to the vehicle and the driver were extensive."

The crash knocked out power for about an hour and a half to more than 1,000 customers on St. Helena, said SCE&G spokeswoman Kim Asbill.

Power was restored to about 800 people by midnight and the remainder by 6 a.m. Tuesday, Asbill said.

Coffin Point Road was shut down between Sea Island Parkway and Cee Cee Road for several hours as firefighters, paramedics and law-enforcement officers secured the scene and investigated the crash, Levesque said.

Levesque said the road was reopened to traffic early Tuesday.

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