Mother of three killed in 'rare' accident along I-26

BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - The Berkeley County Coroner's Office has identified the woman killed during a wreck involving an SUV and a tractor-mower on Interstate 26 on Thursday morning in Berkeley County.

Coroner Bill Salisbury said 23-year-old Kayla Hunt, of St. George, died from head and body trauma.

South Carolina Highway Patrol officials say the incident happened in the westbound lanes of I-26 near Cypress Campground Road around 9:15 a.m. 

Troopers said the female driver of the SUV, apparently collided with a tractor-mower that was driving on the interstate at mile marker 189.

"The SUV obviously ran off into the woods and caught fire," said Corporal Bob Beres. "The driver of the vehicle was not wearing a seatbelt and was deceased and her three children were transported to an area hospital."

Corporal Bob Beres said a man contracted by the South Carolina Department of Transportation was driving a 2007 New Holland tractor with a bush hog on the back in the left lane of I-26 when it was struck by the SUV, which then ran off the right side of the interstate and caught fire.

James Law, spokesperson for SCDOT, said he can remember a similar accident between a vehicle and a tractor a few years back, but says this incident is rare because of the training the contractors are put through.

"We go through all the safety measures," said Law. "The contractors that work for the DOT, we school them in what can be done what can't be done. Roadway safety, staying out of the roadway as much as possible."

In 2010, troopers increased its patrols along this stretch of the interstate, starting just after Jedburg Road up until Ridgeville, to help prevent the number of fatalities.

Between 2007 and 2009 there were 26 fatalities along this stretch of I-26.

What exactly caused the crash, Thursday, is still under investigation by SC Highway Patrol. The troopers M.A.I.T Team (Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team) re-created the crash and will have a detailed report of the accident when the scene is reconstructed.

Hunt's three children, all under the age of five, were in the back seat of the SUV, troopers said.  They were taken to MUSC for treatment.

The Berkeley County Coroner's Office says the injuries of the children are believed to be non-life-threatening.

Beres says no matter the type of accident, all drivers need to be aware of their surroundings on the roadway especially over the next 100 days.

"Memorial Day kicks off what we normally call the '100 Deadly Days of Summer' and that 100 days stretches until Labor Day," said Beres. "Last year, over that 100-day stretch over 200 people died on our roadways. You figure that's a little over two people a day lost their lives. We need to make the right decisions when we're behind the wheel."

The driver of the tractor was taken to Trident Hospital for treatment.  His condition is unknown at this time.

Copyright 2012 WCSC.  All rights RReserved.