Berkeley County authorities have identified four people who died in a fiery five-car wreck near Jamestown Wednesday night.
Three of those killed were members of the Lighthouse of Jesus Christ Church in Georgetown who were traveling to Russellville for a service. Several vehicles from the church were traveling south when they collided with a northbound vehicle, Berkeley County Coroner Bill Salisbury said.
The church members killed were 55-year-old Edith Jackson and 45-year old Angie Arthur of Georgetown, and
Melvira Johnson, 51, of Loris, Salisbury said. Also killed in another vehicle was 36-year-old Steven Morse of Jamestown, he said.
All four were pronounced dead on the scene, Salsibury said. Jackson, Arthur, and Johnson died from thermal burns when the van burst into flames. Morse died from body trauma, he said.
A fourth person in the van was transported to an area hospital and his condition is unknown, Salisbury said.
Bishop Floyd Knowlin, pastor of Lighthouse of Jesus Christ Church, told The Georgetown Times that the injured man is Deacon Johnny Author, who is currently at MUSC. He, according to Knowlin, is in critical condition, the newspaper reported.
The pileup happened at 7:40 p.m. in the southbound lane of U.S. Highway 17A near Freefall Lane in Jamestown, according to the S.C. Highway Patrol. Troopers said they are still trying to determine exactly what happened to cause the wreck.
Sources told The Post and Courier that members of the church choir were on their way to perform at a church in Russellville. A trailer being towed by one of the vehicles contained their musical instruments, sources said.
Knowlin told The Georgetown Times that the SUV carrying the victims was behind the church van — which had 10 people inside – and a trailer. He said a man driving a Ford Fiesta was driving in the opposite direction and was attempting to pass two vehicles. He struck the utility trailer containing musical equipment and then hit the SUV, which ran into the woods and caught on fire, the newspaper reported.
One of five vehicles spun in front of Gene Grissitte’s home and landed in a ditch that lines his front yard. A man appeared to have been thrown from the vehicle and landed on his property.
The vehicle’s battery, which also ejected, still lay in his yard Thursday morning.
Grissitte said he saw another body covered with a sheet across the street from his home.
“A lot went through my mind when I saw that,” Grissitte said. “I’m sorry for all those people who lost their lives.”
He said authorities blocked off the road until about 2:30 a.m. Thursday to clear the scene.
Debra Brown, who is a neighbor of Grissitte’s, said she came across the wreckage as she was coming home from Bible study Wednesday night. She saw the body in her neighbor’s yard, and saw a burning car containing three bodies. She turned around before authorities could remove them from the vehicle. “I didn’t want to see that.”
Brown headed back to nearby Jerusalem Baptist Church. She said the church opened its doors to grieving family members for two hours Wednesday night.
Church members offered the families kind words as they sat in shock, wiping tears.
She said the church did anything they could to help.
But mostly, she said, it was the families who comforted each other.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Because of incorrect information provided to The Post and Courier, earlier versions of this story incorrectly identified one of the victims, Melvira Johnson.
Check back at postandcourier.com today for updates to this story.