Storm debris cleanup crew member dead after being hit by vehicle on I-26

Published: Apr. 6, 2014 at 7:21 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 8, 2014 at 9:36 PM EDT
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Heath Sutherland (Source: Facebook)
Heath Sutherland (Source: Facebook)

BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - All crews cleaning up debris along Interstate 26 were pulled from working Monday morning, a

ccording to the State Highway Patrol.

The State Department of Transportation is responsible for deciding when and where crews are supposed to work. State troopers often times accompany crews at each site.

Live 5 is still waiting to hear back on why the decision was made.

Monday's decision came one day after clean up worker Heath Sutherland was hit and killed by an SUV.

According to officials with the Berkeley County Coroner's office, the 34-year-old was cleaning up storm debris in the median of I-26 eastbound. Officials say Sutherland noticed a tree beginning to fall, causing him to run across the roadway. 

Authorities say Sutherland ran into the right hand lane of traffic and was then hit by an SUV at 11:47 a.m.

Officials say Sutherland was transported to a local hospital and pronounced dead.

Neither the driver nor the passenger occupying the SUV was injured in the accident, according to officials.

Sutherland's death was ruled accidental and was investigated by the Berkeley County Coroner's Office and the South Carolina Highway Patrol.

The coroner says the 34-year-old was from Phil Campbell, Alabama. That town was devastated 3 years ago by a strong tornado.

Robert Thompson, owner of Palmetto Tree Service said, "You know, it is a dangerous job."

Thompson is a 20 year tree expert. He says he's never heard of an accident like this.

"In some of the magazines I get they do list throughout the country problems that people have had or injuries that people have sustained," said Thompson.

Thompson says injuries don't happen very often because of new technology and safety precautions.

"We are regulated to use a lot of safety gear," said Thompson.

Thompson says there are 3 requirements for what every service worker should have on at each site.

"Hard hats are required, steel toe boots are required and reflective vests," said Thompson.

"We kind of analyze the surroundings and potential dangers, power lines, pedestrians or traffic. We'll have people directing traffic," said Thompson.

It's still unclear what gear Sutherland had on while working, but Thompson says there was probably little time to react.

"I don't know how big the tree was, but I would think if you see something coming towards you and you think you're in imminent danger, you don't have enough time to process the safest route out of there. You're just moving to get out of the way," said Thompson.

According to the SC Highway Patrol, every tree cleanup crew along the interstate is accompanied by a state trooper who will flash blue lights to encourage drivers to slow down.?

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