Drivers proceed onto International Drive despite being closed - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Drivers proceed onto International Drive despite being closed

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Myrtle Beach, SC -

By Brandon Herring - bio | email

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A man who crashed into the woods off the unpaved section of International Drive in Horry County Wednesday afternoon was still in the hospital Thursday afternoon.

Robert E. Rupel, 57, of Myrtle Beach was in fair condition at Grand Strand Regional Medical Center. A South Carolina Highway Patrol report stated Rupel drove west off International Drive onto a private road where he ran into a tree around 4:50 p.m. Wednesday.

A day later, several other drivers could be found driving past the pavement of International Drive in the Carolina Forest area. The unpaved part of International Drive goes into the Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve, but if drivers continue on the unpaved part there is a sign letting them know the public vehicle access is from the other side off Highway 90.

"A shortcut, that's what I was looking for," explained one driver who did not want to give her name.

She said she was trying to find a way over to the Carolina Forest High School area. She thought road may provide a connection to the relatively new Postal Way.

"So I was looking for that area, and I thought this road would connect to that road, and then I took a right turn and I ended up in the woods somewhere," she explained.

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources manages the preserve, and officers say they do find lost drivers on International Drive from time to time. Erroneous navigation systems or maps are sometimes to blame explained officer Cary Robinson.

"It doesn't show you there're gates up on it, that the road's closed," Robinson said. "It'll show you that it's a county road - that you should be able to travel down it, but you can't.

Other drivers like Angelo Vuotto said they were just curious. He has lived in the area for a few years and heard the road would eventually connect to Highway 90.

"Occasionally you'll see cars coming out the 90 end, but apparently they're not coming all the way through," Vuotto rationalized.

Robinson said drivers usually do not cause much trouble on International Drive, however from time to time people will trespass. They often are driving their 4x4 trucks off road or loitering he said.

Officers do patrol the area to cut down on problems, but they also have to cover the entire county.

"It's pretty stretched out with where we're working," Robinson said. "We only have five officers with our supervisor making the sixth. So it keeps us pretty busy. It's hard to work one area... We'd love to work it a lot more, but it's hard to get to every place at one time."

Fines for violating rules in the preserve area, including the closed part of International Drive, can range from $110 to $470.

There is a gate on both sides of International Drive at the heritage preserve, but the one on the Carolina Forest side often has to be left unlocked, according to DNR Sgt. Joe Ard. There is some wooded private property that the owners have to be allowed to access.

The road will eventually be open to the public when it is paved. That paving is slated for 2013.

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