Hilton Head car fire kills driver on Cross Island Parkway

astice@islandpacket.comDecember 19, 2012 

A moving car caught fire on the Cross Island Parkway shortly before 7 a.m. Tuesday, killing a driver who has yet to be identified.

The S.C. Highway Patrol said the 2012 Volkswagen engulfed by flames might have struck debris that punctured the gas tank.

Troopers are struggling to understand why the car, which also had a flat tire, continued to travel, spokeswoman Senior Trooper Bridget Wyant said.

Witnesses said the car rolled through the toll booth on the Cross Island Parkway heading west as other motorists tried to alert the driver that the back of the car had caught fire, Wyant said.

The driver U-turned, drove back through the toll booth heading east and continued for three-quarters of a mile before the car came to a stop at the intersection of Point Comfort Road and Palmetto Bay Road.

A person attempted to get the driver out of the car, but the vehicle became too hot, Wyant said. When firefighters with the Town of Hilton Head Fire & Rescue Division arrived at 6:48 a.m., the car was ablaze.

The body found inside was taken to Medical University of South Carolina for an autopsy. Deputy Beaufort County Coroner David Ott said the identity of the victim would not be released until the coroner makes a positive identification at MUSC.

Wyant said the fire damage to the vehicle was so severe investigators could not determine if the driver was trapped or if the driver was wearing a seat belt.

A local resident who asked that his name not be used for this story said he passed the flaming car moments before firefighters arrived and saw a man standing about 100 feet in front of it. He said it appeared the car had pulled over.

Traffic on the island was disrupted until about 9:30 a.m., when the wreckage was cleared. The toll booth was closed, but the Cross Island Parkway was not, and many morning commuters who took the toll road were rerouted.

S.C. Highway Patrol continues to investigate.

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