A year has passed since a detached utility trailer caused a crash on
Interstate 85 in Anderson County that killed the parents of two young
The driver who was towing the trailer that came loose has yet to step
forward to take responsibility for causing the multi-vehicle accident.
Because the trailer was unlicensed, investigators had no way to identify
South Carolina officials also have paid little heed to an activist
who strongly criticized the state’s lax regulations on small trailers in
the days after the accident. Under state law, most utility trailers
weighing less than 2,500 pounds do not need to be licensed or
registered, according to the South Carolina Department of Motor
“I can’t believe your state has done nothing,” said Ron Melancon, a
Virginia resident who has successfully lobbied lawmakers in his state to
pass a pair of trailer-safety measures in recent years.
The events that led to last year’s fatal wreck began about 8:30 p.m.
on Sept. 18 near mile marker 24 on the southbound side of I-85.
According to the South Carolina Highway Patrol, a small homemade trailer
being towed by a truck broke free and came to a stop in the middle lane
of the highway.
The driver of a red Chevrolet sport utility vehicle pulled over
beside the center wall to make a 911 call about the unattended trailer.
Moments later, a gray Honda Odyssey struck the trailer and then swerved
into the path of an 18-wheeler traveling in the right lane. The force of
the collision caused the crumpled minivan to hit the parked Chevrolet
The Odyssey’s front-seat occupants — Spartanburg resident Sajid
Pirani, 34, and his wife, Shirin Pirani, 33 — died at the scene. Their
two daughters, ages 3 and 6, were in the minivan’s back seat. They were
treated at Greenville Memorial Hospital and are now living with an aunt
and uncle in Georgia.
“The case is still open and we could use any information that anyone
has,” said South Carolina Highway Patrol Lance Cpl. Scot Edgeworth.
Trail of death
Accidents involving runaway trailers happen with surprising frequency. The results of such wrecks often are deadly.
A total of 15,592 people died across the United States between 1975
and 2009 in crashes involving passenger vehicles towing trailers, which
equates to 1.2 deaths per day during that period, according to National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics. South Carolina
accounted for 165 of those fatalities.
About a month before last year’s fatal crash on I-85, a 22-year-old
Georgetown man died when his 1996 Toyota collided with a detached
trailer near Salters. And less than a month after the wreck that killed
the Piranis, a 27-year-old school teacher died in Pitt County, N.C.,
after her SUV slammed into an unhinged trailer.
More recently, a 58-year-old Missouri man was killed last month when
his Jeep hit a detached homemade trailer hauling two aluminum canoes. On
Saturday night, a 59-year-old Canadian man died after his Saab sedan
crashed into a steel trailer that had been left on a road in Alberta.
Melancon, the trailer-safety advocate from Virginia, says the vast
majority of these deaths could have been avoided if drivers pulling
trailers were more vigilant about using safety chains and checking the
security of hitches.
A former emergency medical technician, Melancon ran into the rear end
of a trailer with no lights in 2003. Even though he escaped injury, the
incident launched him on a trailer-safety crusade that continues today.
He is the type of grass-roots activist who will send 30 emails on the
topic to a reporter in the blink of an eye.
“When you find something that is a legitimate problem, it seems like someone should be willing to fix it,” he said.
Melancon’s efforts have led to some legislative victories in
Virginia. State lawmakers approved a measure in 2004 that requires all
trailers in Virginia to have reflective tape or reflectors. In 2010,
another law was approved that imposes a $250 fine on trailer owners in
Virginia who do not have proper safety connections.
South Carolina law requires all trailers to be equipped with two rear
reflectors. State law also mandates that trailers must have safety
connections of sufficient strength to prevent them from becoming
Pointing out that violations of these laws usually aren’t discovered
until after an accident occurs, Melancon says South Carolina and other
states need to go even further to insure trailer safety. He has pushed
for laws that would require trailers weighing less than 3,000 pounds to
be licensed, registered and inspected.
“I am all for personal freedom, but not to the point where innocent drivers become victims,” he said.
Melancon said he tried to contact at least two South Carolina
legislators to discuss trailer safety after last year’s deadly crash on
“No one got back to me — not even a courtesy call,” he said.