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GSP reconstruction team works out details of fatal accident

A four-member squad from the Georgia State Patrol's Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team (SCRT) in Gainesville were busy last week, reexamining the scene of a head-on collision that now has claimed the life of it's second victim.

Chrystal Williams, 16, a junior at Thomson High School, was pronounced dead at 7:11 a.m. last Friday at the Medical College of Georgia Hospital in Augusta, according to McDuffie County Coroner Rhusha Mack. Mr. Mack said Miss Williams died of injuries received in a two-vehicle crash Aug. 19, on the Wrens Highway in front of Doodle Hill Trailer Park.

That same wreck, which occurred about 9:40 p.m., also killed 20-year-old Steven Wilson, of Boneville, the driver of the car in which Miss Williams was a passenger. Mr. Wilson was killed instantly. Mr. Wilson, who had been dating Miss Williams, was the driver of a Saturn that struck a Jeep Cherokee.

Six persons in the Jeep were injured - two of which remain in critical condition at MCG - Alicia Kelly, 1, of Wrens and Eric Hannah, 18, who was driving the vehicle. Four other persons have been released from the hospital.

Authorities still have made no determination as to who was at fault in the crash.

Cpl. D.F. Lunsford, one of four SCRT members involved in a follow-up investigation of the two-vehicle collision, told The McDuffie Mirror last week that it could be between six months and a year before their probe is actually completed.

"We examine everything we can in an attempt to find answers about how the wreck occurred," Cpl. Lunsford said.

Some of the things SCRT members look for in fatal crashes are the obvious, such as whether or not seatbelts were used by the occupants and the direction of travel by both vehicles.

In the wreck involving Mr. Wilson's car and Mr. Hannah's Jeep, the facts still aren't in.

Cpl. Lunsford said one of the most important questions confronting SCRT members is the actual direction of travel by both drivers.

"Certainly, one of our objectives is to determine who was on the wrong side of the roadway," Cpl. Lunsford said.

One of the only facts clear at this time is that impact between the two vehicles occurred in the southbound lane of Georgia Highway 17, commonly referred to locally as the Wrens Highway.

SCRT members examined the wreck scene last Monday - forensically mapping the scene, determining the final resting place of both vehicles and drawing the roadway to scale, Cpl. Lunsford said.

"We go into all aspects of what happened," he explained. "We look at whether there were any vehicle defects - sometimes taking parts off to examine them in a laboratory."

SCRT members break down their investigation of fatal mishaps into three elements. They include: roadway - what caused the wreck; vehicles - were there any defects; and the human factor - what caused one of the drivers to be on the wrong side of the roadway, etc., Cpl. Lunsford said.

Interviews of witnesses, as well as drivers and passengers in a wreck, are a big part of the investigation, too, he pointed out.

In the case of last week's crash in McDuffie County, none of the survivors had been interviewed.

There were no witnesses to the crash, Cpl. Lunsford said. And because of Mr. Hannah's condition, authorities have not been able to speak with him. SCRT members plan on talking soon with some of the passengers who were in Mr. Hannah's Jeep.

"Interviews are a huge part of our investigation," Cpl. Lunsford said.

Both of the vehicles in last week's crash were examined by SCRT members at Jimmy & Denna's Paint and Body Shop in Thomson.

Web posted on Thursday, August 30, 2007

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