DARLINGTON, SC (WMBF) - One person is dead after a small truck collided with the Darlington County courthouse early Monday morning, according to Cpl. Sonny Collins with the South Carolina Highway Patrol.
The coroner has identified the deceased driver as 42-year-old Richard Ryan Cowick, of Darlington.
The accident occurred around 3:35 a.m., when a 1998 Chevrolet pickup traveling on S.C. 34 at the Darlington County square ran off the road and struck the courthouse, Collins said.
At that point, the vehicle caught fire, according to Collins. Cowick, the driver, died as a result of the crash. The Darlington County Courthouse was shut down all of Monday. Smoke went up to the second and third floors of the building, but a structural engineer deemed the building safe for county employees to return to work Tuesday morning for normal hours.
Main Street and Pearl Street was closed off all morning because of the crash. Crews towed away the vehicle for investigation. James Hudson, Chief Deputy with the Darlington County Sheriff's Office said, "When I arrived the vehicle was put it, it wasn't burning anymore, just smoke smothering. The fire department response time was great (vo) and at this point nothing was burned inside that we know of, just a lot of smoke damage, water damage and structural damage as well."
There is no video surveillance so it is not determined how fast the driver was going or from what direction. County and city officials were outside the courthouse during the day. Robert Kilgo, a Darlington County Councilman said the crash affected a lot of county employees. "Treasurer, tax collector, auditor, tax assessor, judge of probate, all of those are located inside the courthouse.. Darlington Square has been here since the 1830's, the courthouse has been on this square since 1835 or 36 so the functions of the county exist on this piece of land." said Kilgo.
Along with those who couldn't come and pay their taxes Monday, some of the businesses around Main Street did not open. The accident remains under investigation by the SCHP and its MAIT team, along with SLED.