Wrongful death lawsuit filed in July wreck in I-85 ‘death trap’ chute


CHEROKEE CO., SC (WSPA) – A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed by the husband of a woman killed in a July crash inside the construction chute on Interstate 85 in Cherokee County.

The crash happened the afternoon of July 15 in what Cherokee County Coroner Dennis Fowler called a “death trap” on I-85.

The eight-vehicle crash happened when a tractor-trailer crashed into five other vehicles, causing a chain reaction that involved two others, according to the South Carolina Highway Patrol.

Three people died in the crash: 58-year-old Thomas Newman McElroy and 60-year-old Ruth Ann McElroy of Townville along with 60-year-old Karen Marie Goggin of Virginia.

“She was the heart of this family and they’re just crushed by this tragic, unnecessary death,” said Kenneth Suggs who is representing the Goggin family.

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The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in United States District Court for the District of South Carolina by the law firm Janet, Janet & Suggs on behalf of Thomas Goggin, the husband of Karen Goggin.

The suit alleges negligence by the companies which were contracted by the South Carolina Department of Transportation to widen Interstate 85, the driver of the tractor-trailer involved in the crash, and the trucking company which employed the driver.

“The companies in charge of this construction project knew that the ‘chute’ was a death trap,” said Thomas Goggin in a statement. “No one else should have to go through what we did that day. They must be held accountable for injuries and all the lives lost, including Karen’s.”

In the lawsuit, Blythe Construction and Zachary Construction are accused of creating a dangerous work zone using a chute which increased the risk of crashes and failing to enforce truck lane restrictions in the chute.

Blythe and Zachary are also accused in the suit of failing to make changes to the configuration following a previous fatal crash in the chute.

First five miles of I-85 ‘chute’ in SC expected to be fully removed by Wednesday night

The driver of the tractor-trailer, John Ferguson, and his employer Cowan Systems, LLC are also accused of negligence in the lawsuit. The suit accuses Ferguson of driving carelessly and recklessly in the crash and also accuses Cowan Systems of failing to ensure that Ferguson was driving in a safe manner.

“It’s recklessly irresponsible to trap motorists, including families, between walls with no way to escape from being hit, and on top of that, to have a total failure of enforcement of lane restrictions and a 60 mile per hour speed limit. Add a speeding, inattentive tractor-trailer to the mix and this kind of carnage is inevitable,” said lawyer Kenneth Suggs in a statement.

Following the July crash, the SCDOT announced plans to work with its contractor to remove the construction chute.

The 10-mile chute was expected to be removed in two 90-day phases.

Five miles of the chute were removed in mid-September while the last section is set to be removed by the end of the year.

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