Crime & Courts

Driver who caused deadly Lexington County crash drove away from wreck, SC cops say

A man is behind bars in Lexington County after driving away from a deadly crash that he caused, the South Carolina Highway Patrol said.

The wreck occurred at about 7 p.m. Saturday on U.S. 321 in Gaston, Lance Cpl. Matt Southern said. That’s near the intersection with Old Wire Road and close to Interstate 26.

Royce David Kopacz Jr., 54, was heading south on the highway in a 2007 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck when he rear ended a 1999 Ford Expedition, according to Southern.

The collision caused the SUV to run off the road to the left, and when the driver overcorrected, the Ford flipped and crashed, Southern said.

The 54-year-old Kopacz did not stop, but fled from the crash where a passenger in the Ford was ejected as the SUV overturned, according to Southern.

Jeff Coswell died at the scene, according to a news release from Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher. The 49-year-old Columbia resident was not wearing a seat belt, Fisher said.

The driver of the Ford was taken to an area hospital with “non-life-threatening injuries,” according to the coroner’s office. Further information on the driver’s condition was not available.

More than two hours after the wreck, troopers located Kopacz and arrested him, Southern said. Kopacz is a Gaston resident, online records show.

Kopacz was taken to the Lexington County Detention Center where he was charged with reckless homicide, felony hit and run resulting in death, in addition to felony hit and run resulting in great bodily injury, according to Southern.

Jail records show no bond has been set and Kopacz remains at the detention center.

If convicted, Kopacz would face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $5,000 fine for the reckless homicide charge, under South Carolina law. He would face a similar maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine on the felony hit and run resulting in great bodily injury charge, while the most severe punishment for the felony hit and run resulting in death charge is 25 years behind bars and a $25,000 fine.

The crash is being investigated by the South Carolina Highway Patrol.

This is a developing story, check back for updates.

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Noah Feit is a Real Time reporter with The State and McClatchy Carolinas Regional Team. The award-winning journalist has worked for multiple newspapers since starting his career in 1999.
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