Originally created 11/04/04

Woman dies in I-20 collision

A Georgia woman was killed on Interstate 20 in Aiken County on Wednesday evening after her car crossed the median and collided head-on with a tractor-trailer.

The 6:15 p.m. accident backed up eastbound traffic for hours and prompted officials to close a portion of the interstate.

The woman, who has not been identified pending notification of next of kin, was driving west in a Dodge Stratus at a high speed when the accident happened near mile marker 9, South Carolina Highway Patrol Lance Cpl. Brian McDougal said.

The woman swerved left to avoid another vehicle and vaulted over the median, smashing head-on into the 2004 Freightliner driven by Benard Gill, 53, of New Orleans. The truck belongs to Snyder Trucklines out of Texas and Mr. Gill was hauling household products, Lance Cpl. McDougal said.

Sharon Shaw, who was several cars behind the tractor-trailer, witnessed the collision.

"She hit (the truck) and it burst into flames. There wasn't a chance to get her out of the vehicle. The car was still popping and it kind of blew up a little more," Ms. Shaw said.

The woman died at the scene. Mr. Gill was taken by ambulance to Medical College of Georgia Hospital.

Ms. Shaw said the driver of the truck had minor head injuries but was up and walking around after the accident.

She said an Aiken County Sheriff's Office truck was coming up behind the woman's car in the right-hand lane with its blue lights on when the woman drove into the median.

Ms. Shaw said she thought the woman might have been startled by the lights.

Traffic at one point was backed up to the state line, Aiken County Sheriff Michael Hunt said.

Police started diverting traffic through a detour at Exit 5 at about 7 p.m., but some cars that had been directly behind the accident when it occurred were stuck on the interstate for hours.

A portion of the interstate was still blocked at about 10 p.m. and Lance Cpl. McDougal said he did not know when it would reopen.

Reach Phil Watson at (803) 648-1395 or phil.watson@augustachronicle.com.


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