“They don’t put up a guard rail until something like that happens,” says Elijah Harris.
A simple short steel guardrail stands a few miles from the church where Elijah Harris’ niece Victoria taught church children and sang in the choir – but it wasn’t there in 2004.
“We wish,” he says for his family, “we wish it had been there to start and we lost one, and one was saved, maybe both of them could have been saved.
Victoria died February of 2004 after going over that embankment- rescuers heard her cries but couldn’t get her out in time. Miraculously her niece who was traveling with her, lived – a so-called miracle like the one Bill Blange’s daughter experienced this weekend in Saluda County. Another steep drop off, another culvert, another case with no guardrail.
“It’s unreal, it’s literally scary just thinking about what could have happened and the flip side, what’s the cost of a guardrail to somebody’s life,” Blange says.
Good question: After a series of phone calls we tracked down a Department of Transportation manager. He was happy to hear about this–both to hear someone survived and to know where the problem is:
“We can’t be everywhere at once with limited resources and manpower,” he says. “My district alone is 5.500 miles of road and 1800 bridges.”
That manager says the first step to fixing the problem is finding the problem, so we connected Bill Blange with SCDOT.
How’s he feel now?
“Relieved,” he says. “Thank God, that something can now move forward and we can get this accomplished. It should have been fixed years ago, it should have never been there unprotected.”
DOT confirms they will be out there soon and when they do, here’s how they’ll decided what to do:
“It’s generally based on traffic volumes, the geometry of the roadway, how close the hazard is to the traffic way, what kind of traffic it is, and how much it costs,” DOT says.
When it comes to the cost, Senator Shane Massey represents both Saluda and Edgefield Counties. He’s been crusading–successfully–for more DOT funding, particularly for secondary rural roads. Massey says his constituents can expect to see change and he will continue following this case.