Four people, including a pair of Georgetown County women and one from Loris, were killed Wednesday night in a five-vehicle crash in Berkeley County, according to authorities.
A performer in a Conway theater and a cook from a Georgetown restaurant were among the victims in the collision that happened about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday on U.S. 17A near Free Fall Lane, just south of the city limits of Jamestown, according to the S.C. Highway Patrol.
Berkeley County Coroner Bill Salisbury said Edith Jackson, 55, and Angie Arthur, 45, both of Georgetown, and Melvira Johnson, 51, of Loris, were killed in the crash as they rode in a van from the Lighthouse of Jesus Christ Church.
Also killed was Steven Morse, 36, of Jamestown, the driver of another vehicle involved in the crash, Salisbury said.
Johnson was a veteran at the Theater of the Republic, on Main Street in Conway, where she had been performing for the last 15 years, said Tim McGhee, executive and artistic director at the theater. The Conway High School graduate also performed with the Gold Key Jazz Society.
“A lot of people know her and have seen her and loved her voice,” McGhee said. “But, they didn’t know her name. She’s just wonderful. The theater will never forget her.”
Her voice is unforgettable, he said, comparing her to Patti LaBelle. But, her personality, facial expressions and stage presence are what McGhee said he’ll miss the most.
Her most recent performance was in February in “Ain’t Misbehavin.” She had a part in the annual Christmas show that won’t be replaced this year, he said. Instead, the show called “Holiday on Main Street” will be dedicated in her memory.
“No matter what I asked her to do she’d bring the house down every time,” McGhee said.
Officials determined the church van with three women and a man inside was traveling south on U.S. 17A when they crashed with a northbound vehicle, Salisbury said. It was not clear who was driving the van.
Andrea Johnson, owner of Aunny’s Country Kitchen on Front Street, said Arthur had worked for her for about two years and described her as a “good person, faithful employee.”
“I have lost a jewel,” Johnson said Thursday afternoon. “When I needed her to be here, she was here. She was dedicated and she was loyal. . . . She’s definitely going to be missed. She was like a right hand to me. I could leave my business and know she was here and she was going to take care of everything.”
Andrea Johnson said Arthur’s husband, Johnny Arthur, also was in the van and is in critical condition at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston and Arthur’s family needs prayers.
“It’s really a loss we have endured. She was a God fearing woman. I know she is going to be OK because she knew the Lord,” Andrea Johnson said and noted the couple had four children, including twin teen girls and two adults. “We’re praying he comes through. It’s going to be hard. They were a very, very close family. Her husband was her world and he was hers. When you saw one, you saw the other and they would even dress alike sometimes.”
Jackson, Arthur and Johnson died from burns they suffered when the van caught fire in the crash, Salisbury said. Morse died from body trauma he suffered in the crash.
Friends and family of Jackson could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Other details about the crash including what caused it and information about the other vehicles involved were not available Thursday, said Lance Cpl. Sonny Collins with the S. C. Highway Patrol.
The Multi-Disciplinary Accident Investigation Team was working to recreate the crash to determine more specific information.
Pastor Floyd Knowlin of Lighthouse of Jesus Christ Church, which is located on Winyah Street, in Georgetown could not be reached Thursday afternoon for comment.
A church calendar on their website showed the church choir was set to perform Wednesday night at Bethel Miracle Temple of Deliverance church in Russellville, which is near St. Stephen in Berkeley County. Members of that congregation could not be reached Thursday afternoon for comment.
Troopers and the Berkeley County Coroner’s office continue to investigate the crash.