Originally created 06/08/01

High-speed wreck kills teenager



MONTMORENCI - A teen-ager was killed and another injured Thursday after they were ejected from a pickup truck that flipped four times on a curve that already was marked with a white cross to show a previous traffic fatality.

Thomas Morris, 18, of Aiken, and Nicholas Helmick, 19, also of Aiken, were driving south on Old Barnwell Road at 6:50 p.m. when they passed two vehicles on a double yellow line just before a curve, authorities said. They rounded the corner at a high speed, lost control and flipped several times, Highway Patrol Lance Cpl. R.K. Hughes said.

Mr. Helmick was ejected after the truck rolled over a second time, and the driver, Mr. Morris, was thrown out just before it rolled a fourth. The Chevy S-10 landed upside down a few feet from where the driver was lying on the dirt shoulder, according to James Wyszynski, who witnessed the wreck from behind.

Mr. Morris was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at Aiken Regional Medical Centers, said Aiken County Deputy Coroner Darryl Ables. Mr. Helmick's injuries were not serious, Lance Cpl. Hughes said.

Sam Clark was standing on his porch when he heard the truck approach.

"As soon as I heard them accelerate around that curve, I hung up and called 911," he said. "Nobody going that fast makes it around that curve."

Witnesses said there are several accidents a month on that stretch of Old Barnwell Road, especially at two curves not far apart. They said drivers rarely adhere to the 45 mph speed limit on the road - a cut-through to Savannah River Site.

Aiken County Coroner Sue Townsend said she has painted many white crosses on the two-lane country road to signify deadly accidents.

"We have several spots on Old Barnwell Road that are really bad," she said. "It's one of those roads that is curvy and narrow and not patrolled very well, and people know that."

Reach Katie Throne and Sara Bancroft at (803) 279-6895.