Greenville SC Auto Crash Kills Five, May 1999

CRASH INVESTIGATORS TRYING TO RETRACE DRIVER'S LAST HOURS.

CORONER: RESULTS OF ALCOHOL TESTS MAY TAKE MONTHS.

By April E. Moorefield
Staff Writer.

Without a witness to Greenville County's deadliest car crash in more than a decade, investigators turned Monday to piecing together how one of the drivers spent his final hour's - and what role, if any, alcohol played.
So far, they said they've interviewed a woman who accompanied CHRISTOPHER SHANE QUINN to a party and who said the 25-year-old salesman was drinking beer but didn't appear drunk when he left her minutes before the wreck.
It could take months before the question of his alcohol level is answered. And how fast QUINN was driving won't be known for days or weeks, though they've said they believe excessive speed was a factor.
But there's at least one tragic conclusion reached by the coroner - that at least four of the five people killed might have survived the accident if they had been wearing seat belts.
QUINN was driving a 1990 Infiniti that slammed into a 1998 Oldsmobile late Saturday, killing TRAVIS WAYNE PRUITT, 26, of Greer; his 26-year-old wife BETH RENEE, the couple's 4-year-old daughter ALEXIS HOPE, and MRS. PRUITT'S 53-year-old mother NANCY EILEEN MEFFORD of Lyman.
Blood and urine samples from all four of the adults were mailed to the State Law Enforcement Division on Monday. A SLED spokesman couldn't be reached late Monday to answer whey it might take months to get results.
Holly Harbel, 22, said QUINN dropped her off at her car in the parking lot of Grace Baptist Church about 9:45 p.m. She said QUINN, who worked for Graybar Electrical Co., didn't appear to be intoxicated.
"I've been around drunk people before, and I know what they look like," said Harbel, a schoolteacher. "His
speech was clear, his eyes were clear."
They ate dinner at a restaurant on Wade Hampton Boulevard before going to a party off Brushy Creek Road, Harbel said. It was their first date.
When they left the party, Harbel said QUINN was "driving faster than I wanted" so she said she asked him to slow down, and he did.
About five minutes later, investigators believe QUINN lost control of the Infiniti and spun backward into the eastbound lane and struck PRUITT'S oncoming sedan, said Lance Cpl. J. N. Jones, a spokesman for the state Highway Patrol.
Greenville Police Officer Mike Ford said he was pulling out of his drive near the Pavilion on the way to an off-duty job when a car passed him.
"When he passed my driveway, all I could see was tail lights," Ford said. "I thought to myself, 'This guy is going to kill himself or somebody else,' I saw death."
By the time Ford pulled his Mustang into the road, he said the car was rounding another curve a least a quarter-mile ahead.
"Then just seconds after he went out of sight, I physically felt two thumps. I knew what I was about to see was going to be ugly," he said.
When he arrived on the scene, Ford said his worst fears were realized as he grabbed his flashlight and began checking for pulses.
Heather Watt, whose husband worked with QUINN, said QUINN was a quiet, shy person who had an engaging sense of humor once he warmed up to a somebody.
Harbel said QUINN had asked her to attend church with him the following morning.

The Greenville News South Carolina 1999-05-11