SPARTANBURG COUNTY, SC (WYFF) A child was ejected in a rollover wreck during a police chase on Interstate 85 in Spartanburg County.
The wreck, near Gossett and Battleground roads, shut down the southbound lanes for more than an hour.
Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright said deputies were trying to pull over the SUV during Operation Rolling Thunder, an annual five-day dragnet aimed at cracking down on drug trafficking on the interstate.
Wright said deputies saw the SUV following other vehicles too closely and make an improper lane change, so they tried to pull the vehicle over.
"She was doing enough bad driving to where the deputy recognized that there was a problem," Wright said.
Wright said that the van exceeded 100 mph and passed other cars in the emergency has the deputies, both in one patrol car, pursued it.
He said the van, that was headed north, over-corrected and flipped into the southbound lanes, ejecting the child.
He said the 7-year-old girl is "in bad, bad shape ... and we need to pray for her and her family."
Wright said the driver of the van, who is the child's aunt, has broken bones, but is expected to survive.
Wright said neither the driver nor her niece was wearing a seat belt.
"We have reason to believe that the child was being instructed by the driver to throw marijuana out of the car," Wright said. "That's the reason she was out of the safety belt."
He said investigators recovered about a half a pound of the marijuana.
Wright said that had the deputies known there was a child in the vehicle, they may have backed off, but that having a child with you does not mean deputies won't pursue and arrest you.
"We chase bad guys, that's been happening since there were camels, it's been happening ever since horseback. We are not at fault for this wreck. We feel horrible. If we knew a child was in the car, absolutely some difference would've been made. Our guys didn't know they were in the car. Can't blame us for this one, no matter how much you try."
He said the deputies did everything right and followed proper protocol. He also asked for prayers for the deputies.
"I'm not going to take responsibility for this," Wright said. "Bad guy did this, and bad guy's going to pay for it."
Wright said the woman who was driving was "high" and was driving under suspension.
"There's no good excuse to run with a 7-year-old child in the car with you," Wright said.
The driver's name has not been released pending family notification of the wreck and the child's injuries.