1 killed, 3 injured by fallen tree on Georgia interstate

A large tree fell onto a darkened stretch of interstate highway near the Georgia coast before dawn Friday, causing a chain-reaction crash that killed one woman and injured three others.

The tall pine blocked two northbound lanes of Interstate 95 when it toppled at about 1:30 a.m., according to the Georgia State Patrol. A total of nine vehicles were damaged, some slamming into the fallen tree while others collided while braking and swerving on the roadway in Bryan County, about 12 miles south of Savannah.

A 34-year-old woman died after her car struck the tree, Trooper Steve Harris said in a phone interview. He identified her as Jennifer Renee Burris of New Bern, North Carolina.

"The main impact of the tree with the car went through the front windshield," Harris said. "It flattened the top of the car."

A tractor-trailer also smashed into the tree trunk, Harris said, as did another car that ended up spinning around and coming to rest pointing in the opposite direction. Visibility at that time of night was limited.

"There's no lighting on the interstate in that location," Harris said.

Two people who suffered injuries were treated at a nearby hospital and released, Harris said. A third injured person was scheduled for surgery for injuries that didn't appear life-threatening, he said.

The ground beside the interstate was soaked from a storm that moved through the Savannah area late Thursday. But Harris said he doesn't suspect the storm knocked down the pine tree, which snapped near the bottom of its trunk with its roots still in the ground.

The multiple crashes forced authorities to close all northbound lanes of I-95 overnight, though traffic was flowing again by daybreak.