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Deadly 7-vehicle crash blamed on I-85 ‘death trap’ traffic pattern near Gaffney, SC
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Deadly 7-vehicle crash blamed on I-85 ‘death trap’ traffic pattern near Gaffney, SC

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A “death trap” traffic pattern on Interstate 85 is being blamed for a seven-vehicle crash that killed three people near Gaffney, South Carolina, according to Cherokee County officials.

The three dead include a South Carolina couple and woman from Virginia, Cherokee County Coroner Dennis Fowler said in a release.

It happened around 3:20 p.m. Thursday in a single-lane “chute” that diverts traffic around a construction project, Fowler said. The seven drivers were southbound in the “chute” when a chain reaction of rear-end collisions began.

“These chutes should be called death traps,” Fowler said in the release.

“While state officials have endorsed them at two separate public meetings in Gaffney, I disagree with their being safe for motorists. It seems none of those officials are around to ride with me to knock on the doors of next of kin to deliver the message a loved one has been killed in this maze of concrete.”

Investigators say the three who died were traveling in two of the seven vehicles. They were identified as Thomas Newman McElroy, 58, and his wife, Ruth Ann McElroy, 60, of Townville, and Karen Marie Goggin, 60, of Lake Frederick, Virginia.

The McElroys died at the scene and Goggin died later at Spartanburg Medical Center, officials said.

Goggin’s husband, Thomas Francis Goggin, 59, was taken to same hospital and is “undergoing treatment,” Fowler said. His condition was not released.

Investigators have not said how the chain reaction started and if charges are being considered against any of the seven motorists.

The S.C. Department of Transportation announced Friday it was lowering the southbound speed limit “to at least 45 mph” in the area as a result of the crash and “reviewing all options to increase safety.” Additional law enforcement officers will also be stationed in the construction zone, officials said.

“All options are on the table,” Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall said in a news release. “We find all fatal and serious injury incidents unacceptable. In addition, lengthy traffic backups experienced by motorists along this work zone are not acceptable at all in our view.”

There have been four fatal crashes since travel lane work began in August 2019, and three of them occurred after the chute was activated in November, station WYFF reports.

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