UPDATE: Officer-involved accident caused by following too closely

An accident on I-20 caused traffic Friday evening. (WRDW-TV)
An accident on I-20 caused traffic Friday evening. (WRDW-TV)
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News 12 at 11 o'clock / Saturday, March 2, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- "I could understand why the public would be asking questions," said Richmond County Capt. Allen Marlowe.

Questions about how two officers heading to a security checkpoint could get into a road accident.

"We left to go to the first checkpoint, and en route to the checkpoint, a Richmond County deputy sheriff rear-ended another deputy sheriff from Habersham County," Marlowe said.

Marlowe is part of the team investigating the deputy-involved accident.

The reason for the accident?

"Following too closely," Marlowe said. "He did not have a safe distance behind the other deputy, so we contribute the crash as following too closely.

It happened on I-20 Westbound at the Belair Road exit while several dozen police cars were caravanning to the first checkpoint.

"I would estimate there were approximately 50 [cars]," Marlowe said. "It was a two-car accident. There was a single occupant in each vehicle."

"The Richmond County deputy was injured and transferred to MCG," Marlowe explained.

Two from the News 12 crew and several other witnesses report seeing deputies in the 50-car caravan traveling at high speeds, but officials dispute that.

"The deputy that rear-ended the Habersham County deputy, he made a mistake in judgment. Other than that, I did not see any problems," Marlowe said.

"Obviously, we don't like to be involved in any accident such as that," said Richmond County Lt. Lewis Blanchard. It's regrettable, and we wanna do everything we can to prevent it, that's our whole goal."

That goal is Operation Thunder. A 90-day crackdown on speeding, DUI and seat belt violations.

It started Feb. 14, and on the first night, deputies handed out more than 140 citations, including 11 DUIs.

And the tickets keep coming.

"We had 24 DUIs at last night's checkpoint, 64 other citations, four drug arrests [and] 27 seat belt violations."

And while on the job, trying to make the roads safer, deputies say an accident like this could happen to anyone.

"As many miles as these troopers and deputies patrol day in and day out, they're human -- they're gonna make mistakes from time to time," Marlowe said.

Initial report

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Two deputies collided while on the way to setting up an Operation Thunder check point, backing traffic up almost to the state line along westbound Interstate 20.

It happened on I-20 westbound at the Belair Road exit.

The Richmond County Sheriff's Office says the officers were setting up a checkpoint for Operation Thunder, part of a 90-day campaign to combat dangerous driving, when the accident happened.

A Richmond County deputy's car and a Habersham County deputy's vehicle collided around 7:35 p.m. near exit 194.

A sheriff's deputy was taken to the hospital with a minor shoulder injury. The name of the deputy has not been released at this time.

We are still awaiting word from the Sheriff's Office on how fast the deputies were driving when they crashed and whether speed was a factor.

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