A car carrying four suspected shoplifters who were fleeing from deputies struck a pickup truck head-on before slamming into a tree in Jasper County Thursday afternoon. One occupant of the car was killed and a passenger in the truck was injured.
The pickup trucker driver was not injured. His passenger was taken by ambulance to Coastal Carolina Hospital, according to the S.C. Highway Patrol.
The incident began when Beaufort County Sheriff's deputies spotted the 2011 Toyota Camry about 3 p.m. on Highway 46 near the Jasper County line. The car matched one seen leaving Tanger Outlet 1 in Bluffton where a Michael Kors store clerk was assaulted as he tried to stop the four from leaving, Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Sgt. Robin McIntosh said.
When the suspects crossed into Jasper County, the driver accelerated and deputies turned on their blue lights to pass other cars, McIntosh said. By the time deputies caught up with the Camry, it had crashed into a tree near the Pink Pig restaurant in Levy, she said.
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Three suspects ran from the car, according to witnesses. Deputies later found them hiding in bushes near Roper Road and South Okatie Highway, McIntosh said. All three have been arrested and are in custody.
The fourth suspect, a 19-year-old Savannah woman, was found dead inside the vehicle, according to Jasper County Coroner Martin Sauls III.
Sauls said the woman likely died from massive head trauma, adding that the car was "mangled."
The woman's name was being withheld Thursday evening pending notification of her family.
One of the suspects was taken to a Savannah hospital, McIntosh said. The Highway Patrol said that suspect was released from the hospital.
The driver of the Camry, Craig Scott, 22, was charged with reckless homicide by the highway patrol. He and two passengers were also charged with leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death.
Scott and passenger Jacob Edward, 20, were being held in the Jasper County Detention Center late Thursday night.
The second passenger, whose name was being withheld because he is 16, was taken to the Department of Juvenile Justice in Columbia, highway patrol Sgt. Bob Beres said.
The crash occurred in front of Sharon Emanuel's home. The Toyota was traveling south when it crossed the center line and hit the pick-up truck before crashing into a oak tree in her front yard, according to Emanuel and the highway patrol.
"We heard a loud, 'bam,'" she said. "Then my son and husband saw three young, black men jump out from the car and run behind our house into the woods. They (her husband and son) chased after them, along with two other guys who saw the crash and two Beaufort County deputies."
The wreck, which happened about 3:15 p.m., closed the highway for more than four hours.
The Beaufort County Sheriff's Office is investigating the Tanger Outlet incident, and additional charges are expected, McIntosh said.