New Prospect Baptist Church secretary Jeri Lynn Nobles said she has watched drivers speed up and down Highway 221 near the church and feared one day a traffic accident would turn tragic.
“We’re forever having wrecks down here,” Nobles said. “People are forever flying and passing down here on double lines. I’ve been scared to death somebody would get hurt, and now they did.
An accident on Sunday, Feb. 4 in front of New Prospect Baptist claimed the lives of four people, including Bruce Blair, 54, of Laurens and three teenagers from Union County who were reportedly traveling from Lake Greenwood back to Union.
Laurens County Sheriff Don Reynolds, a former long-time trooper with the S.C. Highway Patrol, said the accident was among the worst he had seen in his career.
The LCSO has increased its presence in the area with its two traffic units, which Reynolds said he hopes will be a deterrent to speeding and other examples of careless driving.
“We have our two guys down there trying to troubleshoot stuff,” Reynolds said. “Hopefully, people will see other people getting stopped and word will get around.”
According to the S.C. Highway Patrol, the Feb. 4 accident occurred when the pickup carrying the three teenagers northbound on Highway 221 crossed the centerline and collided head on with Blair’s vehicle and a third vehicle behind him. The SCHP had no immediate indication as to why the truck crossed the centerline and had no new information from the investigation.
New Prospect Baptist Pastor Phil Hall recounted a wreck involving a school bus and passenger vehicles as well as a 7-year-old boy being struck by a car two weeks ago about 100 yards from the church. No charges were filed in that incident.
Hall said patrons of the church’s daycare facility leave and enter the highway there daily, increasing his concern of accidents along that stretch.
“We’d like someone to do a drop of research and look at the accidents that have happened between the Hot Spot and the next road down,” Hall said. “Just in the last three months, we’ve had three accidents – a bus and two cars, the 7-year-old boy being hit and now (the fatal accident).”
S.C. Department of Transportation Traffic Engineer Nick Rebovich said his department last did a speed study in the area in 2013, but said he is open to taking another look at that stretch of highway in the wake of the tragic accident.
“The types of crashes we’ve seen here have primarily been rear-end collisions,” Rebovich said. “They’re likely the result of not slowing down for people turning into driveways or onto other roads.”