A total of 11 people have lost their lives on roadways in McDuffie and Warren counties this year and some of them may have been preventable, authorities say.
The latest fatality occurred last Thursday morning in McDuffie County when a 47-year-old Tuscumbia, Alabama woman was killed after her car slammed into the rear of a transfer truck near the Thomson exit. Georgia State Patrol Trooper Rich Fishel who worked the wreck said Brenda Reaves fell asleep at the wheel.
Another contributing factor related to that fatality was the fact that the woman wasn't wearing her seatbelt.
Ms. Reaves, who was traveling westbound along Interstate 20 about 10:20 a.m. last Thursday, slammed into the rear of a tractor-trailer rig carrying crushed cars. She was initially treated at the scene by personnel with the McDuffie County Emergency Medical Services and firefighters/first responders with the McDuffie County Fire/Rescue Services.
She later was airlifted by helicopter to the Medical College of Georgia Hospital in Augusta, where she died about noon that day, according to McDuffie County Coroner Rhusha Mack. Coroner Mack said Ms. Reaves died from blunt force head trauma.
Her mother, 66-year-old Barbara Stone, also of Tuscumbia, a passenger in the Ford Contour driven by her daughter, was injured and also taken to MCG. She since has been released from the hospital.
The truck driver, Elias Alberto Hernandez, of Norcross, was not injured.
Ms. Stone's little dog, which was traveling with her and her daughter, was checked at McDuffie Animal Clinic near Thomson and stayed there until family members of Ms. Stone could retrieve her pet.
A mechanical problem, coupled with not wearing his seat belt, recently cost a 26-year-old Thomson man, Prentice Marshall, his life. He was killed in a tractor-trailer wreck on Interstate 20 in neighboring Warren County on July 30, said Sgt. First Class Jason Johnson, who serves as post commander of the Georgia State Patrol Post in Thomson.
Ms. Reaves' death brought to six the number of persons killed this year on roadways in McDuffie County. Mr. Marshall's death, meanwhile, was the fifth one on roadways in neighboring Warren County this year, according to Sgt. Johnson. By comparison, there were 10 fatalities in McDuffie County and four in Warren County last year.
"We've seen all of the deadly contributing factors in the fatalities that we've had thus far this year," Sgt. Smith said Monday. "Those contributing factors have included speed, alcohol, failure to wear seatbelts and following too close."
The post routinely covers accidents in McDuffie, Warren, Glascock, Columbia and Richmond counties, when requested by a local department.
Sgt. Johnson said anytime there is a fatality in an accident investigated by one of his troopers, there's extra scrutiny.
"We do this to see if there was anything we could have done to have prevented it in some way," Sgt. Johnson said.
He strongly recommended that motorists wear their seatbelts, obey the speed limit and not drink and drive.
"We want to save as many lives as we can with our visibility on the highways in all five of the counties that we work," Sgt. Johnson said. "We need everybody's help if we're going to reduce fatalities and serious injuries."
One way that motorists can assist state troopers and other area law enforcement officers is to report motorists who are driving reckless, speeding or who are believed to be drinking and driving.
Motorists can alert state troopers to such a problem by dialing *GSP on their cell phone.
"We respond to those kinds of calls," Sgt. Johnson said. "We take those kinds of calls seriously."
He urged motorists to stop and rest if they're tired and sleepy and to pull off the roadway and call for help if they happen to be taking medicine and become drowsy.
"I'd heap rather come out and check on them on the side of the roadway as opposed to having to investigate a wreck that has killed or injured them or somebody else," Sgt. Johnson said.
In 2007, the state patrol investigated the traffic deaths of 18 people - a number that does not include accidents worked solely by local law enforcement agencies. Troopers worked 545 accidents, which resulted in 299 injuries.
Thus far in 2008, there have been 320 accidents and 191 persons injured in that same region, Sgt. Johnson said, noting that three more important holiday periods have yet to come up. Those holidays include Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.