A Beaufort High School student and a Beaufort resident died Tuesday night in a fiery three-car crash on S.C. 170 near Callawassie Island that also injured a third person.
Richard Allen Rottet, a 17-year-old Beaufort High senior, and Jason Charles Anderson, 27, of Beaufort died in the wreck that occurred at about 10 p.m. and closed the highway in both directions for three hours.
Rottet was driving west in a 1999 Chevy Cavalier when he crossed the center line, crashing head-on into Anderson, who was driving a 2002 Chevy sedan, according to Lance Cpl. Sonny Collins of the S.C. Highway Patrol.
The Highway Patrol reconstruction team is investigating why Rottet's car veered into oncoming traffic, Collins said. Further information on the crash, he said, will probably not be released until the team completes its report. It's not clear when that will be.
A third driver, Joseph Owens, 41, was traveling east in a 2002 Mitsubishi sedan and crashed into the other cars after the initial collision. He was taken to Beaufort Memorial Hospital with non-life threatening injuries, according to Hardeeville Fire Chief Daniel Morgan. Owens' condition could not be determined Wednesday.
One car was engulfed in flames, Morgan said. Neither Collins nor Morgan could confirm whose car caught fire because reports had not been completed Wednesday.
Rottet was best known at Beaufort High for his involvement in "Project Lead the Way," a club geared toward engineering projects.
He was quiet in class, but engineering teacher Doug Plank said Rottet had a "very, very positive influence on everyone."
Rottet was in Plank's engineering classes for three years and volunteered to work as his teaching assistant, often spending his lunch break there. Plank said his classroom was "his sanctuary," where Rottet could tinker with robots, pulley systems and other projects whenever he had spare time.
"He's the model of work ethic," Plank said as he held up a project Rottet built on his own time to help students in lower-level classes see how gear mechanisms work.
"He'll be missed."
The school will not immediately hold a vigil or other memorial out of respect for Rottet's parents, who were not ready to talk with the school about those plans Wednesday, principal Corey Murphy said.
Rottet is the fourth Beaufort High student who has died in the past six months, Murphy said. Two girls, ages 15 and 18, were killed in an automobile accident in May, and a 17-year-old boy drowned in June.
Personal details about Anderson, the other man who died in the wreck, were not available Wednesday night.