Arrington Cunningham composite

Republican Katie Arrington and Democrat Joe Cunningham are both running for office in South Carolina's 1st Congressional District.

Democrat Joe Cunningham began easing back into campaign mode Thursday, five days after he temporarily suspended his congressional campaign after Republican opponent Katie Arrington was seriously injured in a car crash.

Cunningham announced the pivot on social media. 

"I am so thankful that Rep. Arrington is expected to make a full recovery," he wrote.

Also on Thursday authorities released audio from emergency 911 calls on the night of the June 22 two-car accident. The calls describe the horrific nature of the scene.

"The whole car is smashed in," one caller said. "It’s one side. I’ve tried, we’ve tried that back door but it won’t open. The car is leaking gas everywhere."

Another caller reported, "It’s just pieces and things around the cars all the way across the road. People are pretty much just stopped."

Arrington, 47, and her friend, driver Jacqueline Goff, 59, were critically injured in the crash on Highway 17 South near Adams Run in southern Charleston County. The head-on collision occurred when a car driven by Helen White and going the wrong way smashed into the vehicle Arrington was riding in as a passenger, authorities said.

White, 69, died at the scene. She is believed to have caused a hit-and-run collision moments before she crashed into the vehicle carrying Arrington.

There was no immediate evidence of alcohol or other cause of impairment being involved that was addressed in the report.

A driving record obtained by The Post and Courier shows White was also involved in a hit-and-run in 2016, which resulted in property damage. Charleston County court records show White also faced a charge of careless or negligent driving in 1995.

The audio indicates callers were scared by the scene as they spoke to a dispatcher.

"I was just driving home from work, and someone was in the oncoming traffic lane and almost swiped me out. He was coming right at me," said one caller, her voice frantic.

"Were you involved in an accident?" the dispatcher asked.

"No, the people behind me. It could have been me," she said.

One caller thought the vehicle carrying Arrington was on the wrong side of the road.

Arrington and her friend, Jacqueline Goff, were in Goff's rental car heading to Hilton Head Island Friday when the crash happened. 

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Two weeks ago, Arrington won the 1st Congressional District Republican nomination in an upset win over incumbent congressman Mark Sanford. She is a one-term state lawmaker from Summerville.

Cunningham's message came as doctors and Arrington's campaign expressed optimism about her return from injuries that included a fracture in her left ankle, two rib fractures, a colon injury, two small bowel injuries and injuries to her iliac artery. She also suffered bleeding from her abdominal wall and spinal injuries that included a fracture to her second vertebrae.

"As we slowly transition back into this campaign, I intend to keep my sights set on representing the interests of the 1st District and continuing to put country — and the Lowcountry — over party," Cunningham's message said. He thanked his supporters for "keeping Katie, her family, and everyone involved in her accident in your prayers."

About 30 minutes after Cunningham shared his plan on both Twitter and Facebook, his campaign sent a fundraising email to supporters.

"You'll see he's starting to tweet again, posting on Facebook and re-engaging with folks online," said Tyler Jones, his campaign spokesman. "But he won't be making any public appearances until next week."

Both Arrington and Goff are at the Medical University of South Carolina where they were transported by ambulance after the accident. Goff was facing a longer recovery period and was facing more surgeries as of Monday.

Arrington on Wednesday night was moved out of the hospital's intensive care unit, her campaign said Thursday.

"Her physical therapy session today went extremely well and was twice as long as yesterday's session," Arrington's campaign spokesman Michael Mule said. "Katie knows these sessions are important steps toward her return to serving and fighting for the Lowcountry."

Reporter Greg Yee contributed to this report.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Political Reporter

Caitlin Byrd is a political reporter at The Post and Courier and author of the Palmetto Politics newsletter. Before moving to Charleston in 2016, her byline appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times. To date, Byrd has won 17 awards for her work.