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By Reece Murphy
Landmark News Service
LANCASTER — An accident Jan. 24 involving a compact car and a logging tractor claimed the life of a Lancaster High School student and left another man seriously injured.
S.C. Highway Patrol Trooper Billy Elder said the accident happened around 7:22 a.m. on S.C. 200 south of Lancaster about 1 mile east of the Chester/Lancaster county line.
The accident was near the intersection of S.C. 97.
Lancaster County Deputy Coroner Glen Crawford identified the young man as 16-year-old Timothy “TJ” Looper of Great Falls. He was a 10th-grader at LHS.
Elder said Looper was driving north on S.C. 200 when he drove his 1999 Honda Accord into the back of a John Deere “skidder” driven by 51-year-old Wayne Huffstetler of Hickory Grove.
A skidder is a large four-wheeled tractor commonly used in logging for a variety of purposes such as log removal.
The accident trapped Looper inside his car. Looper was transported to Springs Memorial Hospital where he later died, Crawford said.
Emergency crews airlifted Huffstetler to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, Elder said, though the hospital would neither confirm Huffstetler had been admitted or provide information on his condition.
The highway patrol’s Multi-disciplinary Accident Investigation Team (MAIT) is still investigating the accident, which closed traffic on that stretch of S.C. 200 for several hours.
Looper’s English teacher
Michelle Allen said the loss had a profound affect on students and faculty at LHS.
Allen described Looper as a kind and funny young man liked by everyone; a student who had the rare type of personality that let him move easily among all the school’s various “groups.”
Allen said Looper loved trucks and enjoyed working on vehicles in automotive class.
She said the news hit the school’s student body hard.
“For a lot of them, this is the first big loss they’ve had. It’s just so unexpected,” Allen said. “A lot of students had gone home early and there were a lot of vacant seats; kind of a symbol of how many people he touched.
“I think there will be grief counselors for both students and teachers tomorrow,” she said.
Looper’s death comes just over a month after the deaths of two Andrew Jackson High School students in a one-car accident.
Justin Brewer, 17, and Derrick Peach, 16, died Dec. 13 when Brewer drove his 2004 Mazda through a stop sign at the intersection of Phillipstown and Fork Hill roads.
The highway patrol said the vehicle struck an embankment and flipped. Phillips died at the scene. Peach died later after being flown to a Columbia hospital.
The last LHS student lost to an automobile accident was 15-year-old Elyse Hardin.
Hardin died Dec. 29, 2009, when she was ejected in a car wreck on Shiloh Unity Road.
Investigators said the the car in which Hardin was riding, driven by another 16-year-old, was traveling at about 119 mph before the crash.
The car left the road at an estimated 101 mph, investigators said, hit a utility pole six to eight feet off the ground, rolled several times and flipped into a metal building where it struck several I-beams inside.
The teen driving the car later pleaded guilty to reckless homicide.