News 12 at This Morning / Monday, Nov. 7, 2011
TALIAFERRO COUNTY, Ga. -- It all happened in a matter of minutes.
Two accidents occurred within a mile of one another on I-20, leaving three people dead and sending five to the hospital Monday morning.
Nearly 12 hours after crews were called out, they were still working to handle hazardous chemicals so they could clear the scene.
It was a chain reaction of events that started at mile marker 148 when a driver of a car hit a deer and then crossed over the median. The vehicle then t-boned another car traveling westbound on I-20 and the driver of that car, Daniel Williams of Augusta, was pronounced dead.
It led to a traffic tie-up and another crash a mile down the interstate.
"That collision precipitated this one," said Marion Bragg of the Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team.
Bragg said the second accident happened when a pickup truck pulling a boat rear-ended a tractor trailer, which pushed that tractor trailer into a second tractor trailer, killing the two men in the pickup truck.
Those two passengers were Robert Lawson and Paul Jackson Wood Jr. from North Carolina. Both were headed to Biloxi for a fishing tournament. Their truck was crushed underneath the boat they were carrying.
"I don't know if the driver was asleep or depth perception was off, but he never applied the brakes," explained Taliaferro County Sheriff Marc Richards.
Taliaferro County deputies shut down an 8-mile stretch of I-20. On board one of the semis was silicone tetraflouride, a hazardous inhalant that's corrosive.
"It could have been a very big incident where we would have had to evacuate a 1 mile sq radius," Richards said.
Investigators checked for leaks, but found none. They saw only diesel spilled onto the roadway. Their final step is sketching the roadway to reconstruct the chain of events while Hazmat crews and environmental services clean up and unload the chemicals.
We're told the accidents are expected to shut down traffic along I-20 westbound for at least another hour. Officers are asking drivers to use an alternate route during their commute.