Truck driver swims to shore after wreck in Augusta Canal

Thursday, Aug 2, 2012 7:58 AM
Last updated 10:47 PM
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Police said a truck driver escaped harm Thursday after his truck hit a guardrail on eastbound Interstate 20 and fell into the Augusta Canal.

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A 2000 Freightliner box truck rests below the surface of the Augusta Canal after crashing through a guardrail on Interstate 20.  ZACH BOYDEN-HOLMES/STAFF
ZACH BOYDEN-HOLMES/STAFF
A 2000 Freightliner box truck rests below the surface of the Augusta Canal after crashing through a guardrail on Interstate 20.

Around 7:50 a.m., witnesses notified authorities that a 2000 Freightliner box truck had suddenly turned right and hit the rail before disappearing over the side near the River Watch Parkway exit.

Richmond County sheriff’s Cpl. Tommy King said the driver, Brent Whitlock, of Lancaster, S.C., was being treated for minor injuries after he escaped the wreckage and swam to shore. He is being charged with failure to maintain the lane.

Whitlock’s wife is in the area searching for a dog that was in the truck cab with him. Whitlock told deputies he saw the dog, described as a tan collie-type dog weighing 45-50 pounds, swimming away from the truck but never saw it appear on shore.

Authorities said no fuel or items from the truck’s trailer contaminated the canal.

Georgia Department of Transportation crews will arrive Monday to repair the 40 feet of guardrail. The repairs are expected to take a day and a half. The outside east lane will be closed from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. while they work.

“The damage is considered minor considering the magnitude of the accident,” spokeswoman Cissy McNure said in an e-mail Thursday.

Members of the Richmond County Dive Team spent about three hours Thursday morning removing the 26-foot box truck loaded with metal parts in crates from the canal.

Richmond County Fire Department’s Special Operations Chief Wayne Taylor said the truck was almost submerged in the center of the canal when divers arrived.

“It required large wreckers,” Taylor said. “You can imagine a 26-foot box truck full of water and cargo as well.”

First responders said the truck wrecked in the same place where a truck driver died Sept. 2 after his rig plunged into the water. Taylor said the accident in September was much more difficult for divers, taking most of one day to retrieve the burnt wreckage.

Benjamin Cunningham, 54, of Bainbridge, Ga., was driving the 18-wheeler hauling lumber when he hit the guardrail. Authorities believe Cunningham rode the guardrail until it gave way, causing the cab to flip and the diesel tank to rupture and explode. The trailer continued traveling on the bridge until a second portion of the guardrail gave way, sending the trailer off the bridge on top of the cab.

The crash contaminated the canal with fuel and spilled the truck’s cargo of treated lumber.

Comments (12) Add comment
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acstrauss
28
Points
acstrauss 08/02/12 - 08:22 am
6
1
Bridge

This is becoming a common occurance. Use that TSPLOST to build a wider bridge

fatboyhog
2024
Points
fatboyhog 08/02/12 - 09:34 am
3
4
Fatigue

How do you know that it wasn't fatigue? Or someone cutting him off? Or him looking away from the roadway and drifting?

boomhauer
650
Points
boomhauer 08/02/12 - 09:40 am
2
0
I think it was fatigue
Unpublished

I think it was fatigue according some sources the driver didn't remember anything before he went into the canal.

allhans
24009
Points
allhans 08/02/12 - 10:05 am
5
1
The bridge needs a total

The bridge needs a total upgrade. Give us a nice, modern structure that will show GA (and Augusta) at it's best. The skinny little thing we have now is laughable.

proudgunowner
148
Points
proudgunowner 08/02/12 - 10:10 am
0
1
How many bridges in this
Unpublished

How many bridges in this country could have been rebuilt with the $500,000,000 that Obama sent to his buddies at Solyndra? Oh wait, that money couldn't get funneled back into his campaign.

pommom38
1496
Points
pommom38 08/02/12 - 10:45 am
3
1
Agree

It needs to be widened indeed! Doesn't matter if the driver was tired, etc. etc. As first poster said, it's common on that bridge.
Going over it during a downpour is the worst!!

cheapster505
566
Points
cheapster505 08/02/12 - 11:35 am
3
0
well

thought 520 was the fix well guess we was wrong

Little Lamb
46964
Points
Little Lamb 08/02/12 - 01:07 pm
3
0
Bridge

When Georgia was lengthening Bobby Jones Exp. to go to the river, the DOT assumed that South Carolina would pay half of the bridge costs, as they historically done (after all, it's only fair). South Carolina said no; Bill Kuhlke blinked; and Georgia paid 100% for the I-520 bridge into S.C.

I posted at the time that we were setting a bad precedent. Is there any reason for S.C. to pay their fair share for a widening of the I-20 bridge? Why should they? Dandy Don Grantham will blink and make Georgia taxpayers pay the whole thing.

allhans
24009
Points
allhans 08/02/12 - 02:55 pm
5
0
Maybe this could be made a

Maybe this could be made a priority..over some of the wasteful things taxes are so often paying for.

heartablazing
28
Points
heartablazing 08/02/12 - 04:48 pm
6
0
South Carolina would not have

South Carolina would not have to help pay for that bridge since all of it is in Georgia.This is the bridge going over the canal, not the one going over the Savannah river.

TakeAHike
191
Points
TakeAHike 08/02/12 - 05:27 pm
3
0
Dog?

Any word on the dog? Please post a photo and better description. I hope his dog isn't injured and he is soon reunited safe and sound.

allhans
24009
Points
allhans 08/02/12 - 11:50 pm
1
1
A witness that was watching

A witness that was watching never saw the dog surface...he might not have made it.
He shouldn't be hard to miss if he is wandering around. A lost dog, well, looks like a lost dog.

nanowerx
1334
Points
nanowerx 08/03/12 - 07:45 am
4
0
Just shows how horrible the

Just shows how horrible the DOT is with managing funds. This is one of the most heavily traveled passages between Carolina and Georgia, yet appears like it could crumble at any minute. Look at the Mike Padgett HWY project; took them 15 years and millions of dollars over budget to finish.

I can't believe this region voted in TSPLOST, such a waste of taxpayer money, the DOT is going to waste it on useless projects like taking Riverwatch to Washington road and a I guarantee you some higher-ups will be getting a nifty raises soon.

beboisme
425
Points
beboisme 08/03/12 - 09:42 am
1
0
Throw the blame somewhere

Throw the blame somewhere right? Wrong, just investigate the probable causes of these horrific accidents and fix the problems where needed and get on to the next.

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