4 dead after car collides into “Widowmaker” tree in Charleston, South Carolina

Four people were killed Saturday morning when a car collided into a tree known locally as the “Widowmaker” on James Island in South Carolina.

Around 1:23 a.m., a 2010 Cadillac SUV was traveling South on Riverland Drive, near George Griffith Blvd., when it veered off the road and struck the large living southern oak, the Charleston Police Department said.

The four passengers were not wearing seat belts and were ejected from the car, suffering fatal injuries, according to law enforcement.

“At this time there is no indication that any other vehicles were involved in the collision,” read a statement from the Charleston Police Department.

The fifth occupant, the driver, also was not wearing a seat belt, but was not ejected following the crash. The driver was transported to the Medical University of South Carolina with serious injuries.

A Charleston Police Department spokesperson confirmed the accident occurred when the car struck the tree, known locally by the grim name “The Widowmaker.”

The tree is studded with reflectors and bearing a sign with its ominous name. It sits in a bend in the road on Riverland Drive.

In a long post on Reddit, a user described the tree’s dangerous reputation:

“The positioning of the tree so close to the road, the lack of artificial light, and the lull of open and unwavering asphalt leading up to the tree, result in reports of rather regular collisions.”

The Reddit poster added, while they didn’t know of any fatal collision, “An unnamed EMS member noted that this tree once infamously reported two major accidents in the same day.”

Google users commenting on the Google Maps app describe the tree as a sturdy oak with spreading branches that loom over the street. While one poster described the tree as “no different than any other big tree on the side of the road in Charleston,” several others reported collisions with the tree.

“Please cut this tree down,” read one post.

No charges have been filed at this time, police said. The cause of the crash is under investigation by the Charleston Police Department Major Accident Investigation Team.

Riverland Drive was closed for multiple hours overnight, but has been reopened since 8 a.m., according to the department.

Officers said the Charleston County Coroner’s Office will release the names of the deceased “when appropriate.”

Saturday’s crash brings the total number of traffic fatalities investigated by the Charleston Police up to 17.