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Crash, tanker explosion claimed life of three brothers

POSTED: November 25, 2013 8:18 p.m.
Photo by Paul Floeckher/

A fireball erupts from a tanker truck in the background after Thursday's crash with a pickup truck.

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An already-horrific scene became a tragedy for one Effingham County family when investigators determined the identities of three people who died in a fiery crash on Thursday.


Three brothers, including a small child, died when their pick-up truck collided with a tanker truck on Highway 17 and both vehicles burst into flames, the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Friday.


Investigators sifted through the wreckage Friday and identified the three people in the pick-up as Wesley Mulligan, 18, Garrett Mulligan, 16, and Eli Hickox, 3, from Guyton.


The crash remains under investigation but charges are not expected to be filed against the driver of the tanker truck, according to Effingham County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Detective David Ehsanipoor.


Garrett Mulligan was a sophomore at Effingham County High School, ECHS principal Yancy Ford confirmed Friday. Ford added that Wesley Mulligan attended ninth grade at ECHS before transferring to Richmond Hill High School.


On Wesley Mulligan’s Facebook page, friends posted messages including “RIP my brother, you’ll forever be missed,” and “RIP man, gone but never forgotten.”


“I value what I knew of Wesley,” said another Facebook note. “I would like to give something to his family. I can’t imagine how hurt you are, but I’m truly sorry. Tears for him and his family.”


Ford described Friday as a “normal” school day at ECHS, since authorities did not release the crash victims’ names until later in the day. However, the school’s counseling crisis team was available to any students who were aware of what had happened and needed support, he said.


“Our counseling staff is here to support our students as always,” Ford said.


A donation page to help the boys’ family with funeral expenses was set up at www.gofundme.com/5f1xa8. More than $50,000 has been donated.


According to the site, the boys were heading to Sand Hill Elementary School to pick up their sister when the crash occurred. SHES principal Kristen Richards confirmed Friday that the deadly crash involved relatives of “a member of our Sand Hill family.”


“Whenever anything happens to one of our students, or any Effingham County students, we really try to pull together and support them any way possible,” Richards said. “Certainly we’ll be standing at the ready.”


The tanker truck filled with gasoline exploded after being hit by the pick-up truck in the Marlow area. The tanker was southbound on Highway 17 and the small Ford pick-up was eastbound on Marlow Road, and both vehicles burst into flames after they collided around 3 p.m. at the intersection of the two roads.


The tanker driver was not seriously injured. He got out of his truck before it was consumed by fire and was able to talk to investigators, according to Ehsanipoor.


The pick-up was so badly burned that investigators initially had a difficult time determining how many people were inside. The ECSO confirmed Thursday evening that at least two people had died, and revised the number to three on Friday.


After the impact the two trucks traveled about a fourth of a mile down Highway 17, with the pick-up pinned under the front of the tanker, before coming to a stop. A portion of Highway 17 caught on fire as the two trucks burned, and the road was shut down between Marlow Road and Courthouse Road.


Multiple fire crews responded and extinguished the fire as it flared up several times.

"About a half-dozen homes" in the immediate area were evacuated as a precaution, Ehsanipoor said.


The state Department of Transportation closed Highway 17 between Falagan Street and Old Marlow Road to repair about 100 yards of the road that had been damaged. The shoulders of the road also had to be repaired.


Crews completed the repairs Monday evening and the stretch of road was reopened to traffic, according to the DOT.

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