Sanitation worker killed after garbage truck backs into him

Highway patrolmen investigate an accident involving a City of Charleston garbage truck at the corner of Oswego Street and Francis Street in downtown Charleston.

South Carolina Highway Patrol is investigating the death of a Charleston sanitation worker who was killed near the corner of Francis and Oswego Streets Tuesday afternoon when a garbage truck backed into him.

According to authorities, witnesses said the victim was standing behind the truck, directing it backwards, when the driver, identified as longtime sanitation employee Janie Campbell, rolled over him. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.

Lance Cpl. Matt Southern of S.C. Highway Patrol called the victim’s death an “unfortunate accident.”

“I don’t want to speculate since they’re still trying to figure it out themselves, but he may have made a wrong move to the left, a wrong move to the right,” Southern said. “The truck was moving three or four miles an hour — I don’t really know how fast it was going — but I think the driver lost sight of him for some reason.”

Authorities at the scene declined to identify the sanitation worker killed in Tuesday’s accident. Charleston County Deputy Coroner Sheila Williams said her office will release additional details about the victim’s identity after his family has been notified.

“Tonight the whole City of Charleston family is grieving the loss of a Charleston Public Service Department contract worker who died this afternoon in a tragic accident involving a city Public Service Department vehicle,” said Mayor John Tecklenburg in a statement. “For now, our thoughts and prayers are with everyone touched by this terrible tragedy.”

Sanitation employees, including refuse and recyclable material collectors, have one of the country’s most dangerous professions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with 35.8 deaths per 100,000 workers — more than twice the fatality rate of police and sheriff’s patrol officers.

Reach Deanna Pan at (843) 937-5764.