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One driver killed, another hospitalized after three-vehicle collision, SC cops say

One person was killed and another was injured early Wednesday morning in a head-on collision, South Carolina officials said.

Merrill Lonjin Jr., a 39-year-old Sumter resident, died in the accident, Sumter County Coroner Robbie Baker said.

The three-vehicle collision happened at about 4 a.m. on Pinewood Road, near the intersection with Starks Ferry Road, according to Master Trooper William Bennett of the South Carolina Highway Patrol.

Lonjin was driving a 2011 Mercury SUV west on Pinewood Road and crossed the center line, crashing head-on with an eastbound 2021 Toyota sedan, officials said. The Toyota then collided with a 2019 Jeep SUV that was also driving east on Pinewood Road, according to Bennett.

Lonjin, who was not wearing a seat belt, was entrapped in the Mercury and died at the scene, Baker said.

The driver of the Toyota was taken to an area hospital, according to Bennett. Further information on the Toyota driver’s condition was not available.

Bennett said the Jeep driver was not hurt, and no other injuries were reported.

There was no word if either the Toyota or Jeep drivers were wearing seat belts.

Information about what caused the Mercury to veer into oncoming traffic was not available, but the crash continues to be investigated by the Highway Patrol and coroner’s office. An autopsy has been scheduled for later this week at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, Baker said.

Through Monday, 893 people had died on South Carolina roads in 2023, according to the state Department of Public Safety. Last year, 1,091 people died in crashes in South Carolina, DPS reported.

At least 27 people have died in Sumter County crashes in 2023, according to DPS data. There were 30 deaths reported in the county in 2022, DPS reported.