Incident report sheds light on what incited wrong-way I-95 chase, fiery crash

News13 photo by Curtis Graham

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – A police report released Tuesday by the Florence County Sheriff’s Office provides more detail about what happened before deputies and troopers were involved in a wrong-way car chase on I-95 a week ago that sent several people to the hospital.

Collision on Hoffmeyer Road

According to the report from the sheriff’s office, deputies were initially called to the intersection of Hoffmeyer Road and South Ebenezer road on September 19, about a collision involving a black Nissan and a white truck. While deputies were on the way, dispatch added that two of the parties involved in the crash were in the middle of the road fighting.

Over the course of the investigation, deputies learned that the driver of the white truck watched a man later identified as Donnie Knight steal a backpack blower out of the back of his truck from his business on Presbyterian Road. When Knight fled in the black Nissan with the stolen blower, the driver of the white truck chased him to the intersection where he forced Knight off the road and began fighting him in the roadway.

When deputies arrived, they learned that Knight had run from the scene and into the woods. An off- duty EMS worker followed Knight, who was reportedly swollen and covered in blood, into the woods but was not able to find him.

The incident report states that there was a woman in the black Nissan Sentra who was taken to the hospital after the car crash. The woman confirmed to investigators that she saw Knight steal the piece of equipment, and the report also notes that the blower was found inside the black Nissan after the crash.

The black Nissan that Knight was driving when he stole the blower was stolen out of Spartanburg, according to the report. When officials ran Knight’s name through the National Crime Information Center, deputies discovered Knight had warrants out for his arrest in Tennessee, Georgia and Florida.

 

Carjacking

After deputies checked the woods and were leaving the area, investigators saw a man covered in blood without a shirt approach a blue truck on Ebenezer Road and get inside the vehicle. According to the report, the deputy saw “the driver’s door fly open and a male from the driver’s seat was tossed out the vehicle.”

The owner of the blue truck later told officials that the bloody man told him that he needed help. Once the blue truck’s owner let him in the car, Knight told the victim “Get out or I am going to stab you,” according to deputies.

One deputy who saw the carjacking reported that the victim was flung to the ground and rolled several times into the edge of a field where he appeared to be motionless.

The report states that the victim later told deputies never saw a knife, but Knight acted as if he had one.

After the victim was thrown from his blue truck, the car chase began.

 

Wrong way car chase on I-95

In the blue truck, Knight made a right on to Sumter Street and went north on Pisgah, hitting street signs along the way, swerving toward oncoming traffic and driving on the wrong side of the road.

Next, Knight made a left on to the exit ramp for I-95 and entered the interstate, crossed all lanes of traffic and continued driving north on the south-bound side of the interstate.

Video from News13 viewer Sarah Nicole O’Brien shows law enforcement officers driving on the wrong side of the road, chasing what appears to be the suspect’s vehicle against the flow of traffic on I-95.

Florence County Sheriff’s Office deputies chasing the vehicle were reportedly traveling in the emergency lane, mirroring Knight as he was driving on the wrong side of the interstate.

During the chase, Knight encountered a burgundy Buick. As the deputy, Knight and the Buick all tried to avoid hitting with one another, the sheriff’s office vehicle swerved towards a group of trees and the Buick and the sheriff’s office vehicle collided head on.

Two people inside the Buick and the Florence County Sheriff’s Office deputy were transported to the hospital for treatment, according to the incident report.

Darlington County investigators were called in after the chase to investigate the collision because both the South Carolina Highway Patrol and the Florence County Sheriff’s Office were involved in the chase, according to Darlington County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Lt. Robert Kilgo.

Lt. Kilgo confirms the crash happened on I-95 just north of exit 170.

News13 crews on scene say they saw a Florence County Sheriff’s Office on the side of the road in flames around 6:30 p.m.

The night of the crash, Major Michael Nunn with the Florence County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that four people total were taken to the hospital following the pursuit, including the suspect.

Knight was taken into custody last week after the crash, but charges against him have not yet been released.