2008-08-20 / Front Page

One fatality, 14 injured in five-vehicle accident

by Terry Toole

One fatality, 14 injured

This vehicle was struck from behind while waiting for a school bus to off-load. The mother/driver and four of her children were injured, some critically enough to be air-lifted to an area hospital for more extensive treatment.

A multi-vehicle accident happened at approximately 3:30 p.m. Thursday, August 14.

The collision occurred when a semi-tractor trailer crashed into the rear of a 2006 Chevrolet pickup truck, pushing the pickup truck into a 2005 Chrysler Van, that was slammed into the rear of a SOWEGA Head Start 2007 IC CE bus.

The school bus had stopped on U.S. Highway 27 South of Colquitt at Martin Lane, just prior to Whites Bridge Road crossing. The school bus had stopped to let Layla Gadson, 4, and Alexis Gadson, 3, off the bus. Their grandmother, was standing beside the bus to get the children when the collision occurred.

According to the accident reports, Shirlene T. Hodge, 54, of Brinson, had stopped a school bus on U.S. Hwy. 27 South to off-load some passengers. All the required stop lights were operational.

This truck was hit in the rear and propelled into the van when hit in the rear end by a semitractor trailer. The driver is in critcal condition after being sent by helicopter from the scene to a Tallahassee hospital. 
Glenda S. Smith, 35,of Colquitt, had stopped directly behind the bus in her 2005 Chrysler van along with passengers Kayla G. Smith, 8; Kelly Smith, 6; Kristen V. Smith, 12; and Kimberly B. Smith, 10.

David L. Ebersole, 58, of Colquitt, had stopped directly behind the Smith van.

Tommie W. Thomas,49, of Jasper, Indiana, was travelling south on U.S. Highway 27 South in a 2007 Freightliner tractor-trailer semi truck. Thomas failed to stop for the traffic. As a result the front of the semi tractor-trailer struck the rear of the pickup truck. The semi truck then sideswiped the school bus before entering the west ditch, striking a high power pole, snaping it off and coming to rest in the west ditch.

After the first impact, the front of the Ford pickup struck the rear of the Chrysler van, which caused the front of the van to strike the rear of the school bus. The pickup truck came to an uncontrolled stop in the west ditch.

School bus built like a tank, sustains moderate damage.
The Chrysler van came to an undisclosed final rest in the southbound lane of U.S. Hwy. 27, as did the school bus in the same lane of traffic.

The Head Start bus did not sustain too much damage, and the two students, Christopher Cook, 3, and Devin R. Sheffield, 3, both of Colquitt, that were in the five-point harness seat belts were not seriously injured.

School bus monitor, Rebecca A. Robinson, 30, of Iron City, sustained visible injuries. Alexis and Laylah Gadson, were both injured as they were leaving the bus, along with their grandmother, who was waiting for them along side of the bus. The fifth vehicle was Alice R. Jaye's Kia that was parked in the drive of Martin Lane. It was not damaged, but covered in dirt as the semi-truck missed it by inches and covered it with dirt. The driver was near the school bus waiting for the two girls to get off when she was injured by debris.

Semi damaged severely.
There were two witnesses to the incident.

The investigating officer was Trooper FC2 J. C. Roberts of GSP Post 14 Colquitt. A separate investigation is pending by Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team #5 SCRT.

According to Fire Chief/ EMS Director Craig Tully, "This was the largest wreck incident that we have worked since I was with this department. There were more people injured and transported than anything we have gone to."

Director Tully stated that there were 15 injuries. Twelve went to the Miller County Emergency Room. Two victims were transported to Bainbridge Memorial. The pickup driver, Ebersole was air flighted to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital from the scene. He is still in critical condition. Five other victims were air flighted to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, including the semi-truck driver, who succumbed to the injuries he received in the accident Sunday afternoon at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. "It was a dangerous situation with diesel fuel, gas and high powered lines down. It could have been a much worse situation than it was," Director Tully said.

Cory Thomas, public information officer stated that according to Director Tully and GSP Lt. Buddy Johnson, everything worked just like it was suppose to. Every department, including our neighbors who assisted in the rescue efforts, did everything they were suppose to do. This was one of the worst potential accidents that we have had. More were injured and more had to have help, quickly. Those departments and agencies who helped were:

•Miller County Sheriff's Department

•Colquitt/Miller County Fire and Rescue

•City of Colquitt Police

•Miller County Emergency Management Service (EMS)

•Decatur County EMS

•Decatur County Sheriff's Department

•Seminole County EMS

•Georgia State Patrol Post #14 Colquitt

•GSP SCRT #5 team •Three Notch Electric

•Georgia DOT

•Motor Carry Compliance Division of GSP

Other area counties called to help in any way they could.

There were three medical helicopter companies helping to move the critical patients.

All local doctors and Physician's Assistants in the county were at the Miller County ER as well as nurses. Many of them came without being called.

Because all of these agencies, neighbors and professionals worked so well together, lives were saved, according to most of those in charge.

It makes you proud you live in this area.

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