2 deaths, 6 injuries - 4 children - and criminal charges
Three Clinton women, friends, see “Elvis,” have milkshakes - 2 die, 1 seriously hurt in Hwy 76 head-on crash; bond denied for surviving driver
The Clinton-Joanna communities awoke Sunday to the heart-breaking news that two local women died at separate hospitals after a two-car traffic crash.
Six other people, including four children who were not in seat belts, were hurt. The surviving driver was denied bond on Felony DUI charges yesterday.
The wreck happened about 11:51 p.m. Saturday at the Grain Bin Road intersection with Highway 76 about a mile east of Clinton. The road is across the highway from Dance South.
A Highway Patrol report says the driver of a Taurus crossed the center line, and collided head-on with a Mustang. According to news media reports, Laurens, Greenwood, Newberry and Anderson counties all had fatal accidents this weekend (May 18-20).
Two women from the Mustang died later at hospitals, and a third was seriously hurt. All three were wearing seat belts.
The three women in the Mustang were returning to Clinton from an Elvis impersonator show at the Newberry Opera House, a family member of the injured woman said, and were just a couple miles from their destination when the wreck happened.
Mechanical means were used by first responders to cut the victims out of the Mustang, and to extricate the driver of the Taurus, who also was seat-belted. Four others, reported to be juveniles (and not identified), were in the back seat of the Taurus, the report said.
South Carolina Highway Patrol Lance Corporal Gary Miller filed the state’s initial investigative report.
He said a 2004 Ford Taurus was west bound on US 76 and crossed the center line, colliding head-on with the Mustang. He said the driver and two passengers of the Mustang were wearing their seat belts. He said they were all entrapped and had to be freed from the wreck by mechanical means. The driver of the Taurus was Khelsey Chanta Rice, 38, of Clinton. After being extracted by mechanical means, Rice was transported to Greenville Memorial. Miller said there were four juveniles in the Ford Taurus. They did not have seat belts on, the trooper said, and they were transported to Greenville Memorial Hospital.
The Laurens County Coroner’s Office identified the victims as Lois "Bit" King, 63, of 1505 Young Rd., Clinton, who was attendance clerk at Joanna Woodson Elementary School, District 56; and Margie Seymore, 65, of 1980 Stomp Springs Rd., Clinton, who worked at Bailey Manor Christian Retirement Community in Clinton.
King died at 1:19 a.m. Sunday at Greenville Memorial, and Seymore died at 3:35 a.m. Sunday at Spartanburg Regional, a report said. Four days before, King came home from the hospital after a check-up for cancer, and spots on her lungs were found not to be cancerous, a Facebook post said.
District 56 Superintendent Dr. David O'Shields released a statement:
"It is with extreme sadness I must inform you of the tragic loss of Ms. Lois (Bit) King, PowerSchool administrator at Joanna-Woodson Elementary School. She was killed in a car accident last night. Please pray for her husband, her girls and their families, especially her grandchildren, and a whole host of lives she touched.
“Ms. Bit was a beacon of joy and inspiration to all whom she met. She was, as was the JWES mascot, a star. Her rightful place now is in the heavens.
Words cannot express our sadness or grief at this time; however, we must remember her legacy and let her love and her belief in her Savior light our path during this difficult time."
The left-rear seat passenger of the Mustang, Norma E. Smith, 66, of Clinton, was transported to Self Regional Hospital. She could not be airlifted because there weren't enough helicopters, according to a family post on Facebook. She suffers from a fractured sternum, multiple cracked ribs, broken lumbar vertebrae, a pneumothorax, whole-body bruising, and tongue and lip lacerations, the post says.
Fox Carolina reported that Smith, the left rear passenger in the Mustang, was transported by EMS to Self-Regional. The victim's daughter, Carol Harvell, said her mother is in critical but stable condition. Harvell said her mom, Aunt Bit, or Lois King, and their friend Marge Seymore had just left an Elvis impersonator concert at the Opera House in Newberry.
"Mama remembers the fun they had that night before the wreck," Harvell said. "They all loved Elvis. They had went to an Elvis impersonator concert featuring Rick Alviti in Newberry at the Opera House. They stopped afterwards and had milkshakes and just had a good time. They saw the car coming at them and Marge tried to get out of the way."
She said they were less than two miles away from their destination when the crash occurred. On Monday, Harvell said her mother's vitals were stable and she was moved out of the ICU and in to the surgical wing.
"She's in a lot of pain since she's waking up more. She is still considered serious condition," Harvell said. "My mama has a very long road to recovery ahead of her."
Harvell shared about her aunt and their friend Marge who did not survive the collision:
"[My aunt] was an amazing person and would do anything for anybody. She loved her family and the kids that she helped take care of at Joanna Woodson Elementary. She had an infectious, bubbly personality and to know her was to love her. I didn’t know Mrs. Marge but I’ve heard nothing but great things about her."
King was born in Clinton, the daughter of the late Harold and Evelyn Moates. Bit was employed with Joanna-Woodson Elementary School. She was an active member of the First Baptist Church of Clinton and sang in the Adult Choir. She was a member of the Gideon Auxiliary and will always be Elvis’s biggest fan! Survivors include her husband of 44 years, Kelley King of the home.
Her funeral will be this afternoon (May 23). In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to the Joanna-Woodson memorial fund in memory of Bit King, 211 North Broad Street, Clinton, SC 29325.
Seymore was born August 13, 1952 in Greenwood, the daughter of Lila Mae Elledge and Richard Fleck. She was a member of Shady Grove Presbyterian Church and a graduate of Clinton High School. Survivors include her husband, Allen, of 47 years.
Her funeral will be tomorrow afternoon (May 24). In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to Thornwell, 302 S Broad St, Clinton, SC 29325.
As of press time, this wreck remains under SC Highway Patrol investigation. Authorities said the surviving driver, Rice, 38, of Captain Guy Rd., Clinton, was arrested and charged with two counts Felony DUI resulting in death, three counts Felony DUI resulting in great bodily injury, one count of child endangerment and one count of having an open container of alcohol. Lance Cpl. Justin Sutherland of the SC Highway Patrol made the announcement on Monday.
Statewide, Jan. 1 to May 18-20, 367 people have died in SC wrecks, compared to 400 in this timeframe in 2017. Of 264 vehicle occupants who have died, 133 were not wearing seatbelts.
In Laurens County, 12 people have died on the roads so far in 2018, compared to 17 at this time in 2017.