Beaufort News

Scene of port-a-potty truck crash into Savannah River described as 'unreal'

When Sgt. Chris Rodewolt arrived at Wednesday's bridge crash at about 1 p.m. on Interstate 95, he saw a sight he could only describe as "unreal."

Below the bridge at the S.C. state line was a man struggling to hang on to the top of a submerged white Ford pickup truck that had fallen into the Savannah River. Sticking up from the back of the truck were two partially submerged portable toilets.

Rodewolt, of the Georgia State Patrol, saw that the man was miraculously conscious and alert after his Ford F350 had toppled off the right side of the northbound bridge.

"He was doing his best to stay on top of that truck," Rodewolt said.

The man could talk and follow commands. Soon rescue workers were able to send down a life jacket for him to put on and a line he could hold onto.

About 20 minutes later rescue workers had reached him by boat and took him to Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah. Rodewolt said the man was injured on his upper body and head; the injuries appeared to be non-life-threatening. His name and condition have not been released.

The driver had slowed down for some reason while driving over the bridge, and a tractor trailer crashed into the back of the truck, Rodewolt said. The force of the impact sent the truck up onto the right guardrail. The truck traveled atop the guardrail for a distance before falling into the river.

Two portable toilets broke free from the truck. One was found on a sandbar and removed by an environmental cleanup contractor, according to Kevin Chambers, communications director for the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. The other toilet could not be found.

Chambers said he did not know whether the toilets contained any waste, but they should have been empty before being loaded onto the truck. State law prevents the transport of portable toilets that aren't empty.

Traffic remained backed up until about 5 p.m. Wednesday while the truck was eventually hoisted out of the river.

The tractor trailer had some significant front-end damage, but the driver was not injured, Rodewolt said.

He said the investigation continues as to which driver was at fault. He expected a final report to be released early next week.

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