UPDATE | Suspect's father regrets son's actions following deadly crash in Harlem

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News 12 NBC 26 News At 11 | Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Daniel Thomas Shaffer Jr.

UPDATE | 11:45 p.m.

HARLEM, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- A 22-year-old from Harlem is facing serious charges after deputies say he crashed head-on into another car, killing the other driver.

The Columbia County Sheriff's Office says Daniel Shaffer, Jr. has been charged with homicide by vehicle, possession of drugs and DUI along with other charges. His father, other family members and neighbors say they're all in shock after the news his son was involved.

Daniel Shaffer walks next to the scene of a deadly crash along Old Union Road in Harlem only to find bits and pieces. It's the spot where his son's car crossed the center line and struck another car Monday afternoon. He asked News 12 NBC 26 to refrain from showing his face on camera during our interview.

"I got a phone call on my wife's cell phone from a deputy, told me my son was in a critical accident off of Union Road," Shaffer says. "When we got the phone call, we went in that direction not knowing what happened, where it happened, what not. When it really hit me the hardest is when I spoke to the officer at the hospital yesterday and he told me that my son was at fault."

Deputies say his son, 22-year-old Daniel Shaffer, Jr., tried to pass two cars going over 100 miles an hour. On the other side of the curve coming from the other direction was a car driven by 69-year-old Virginia Fairburn, a longtime Harlem resident coming home from work.

The skid-marks that remain show where the cars met head-on and her life ended. Shaffer says he knows people around his son's age will make mistakes, but there's no excuse for what he did and must now face his consequences.

"This lady's life was taken and my sons is gone," Shaffer says. "It's real heavy on mine and my wife's mind to know that this lady had to lose her life because of stupid decisions that my son made yesterday."
"There's consequences for everything in life. I tried to teach that to my kids, but you know you can't be there all the time. You can't make decisions for them when they grow up and move out. They have to make their own decisions."

His oldest son now faces several charges and leaves two families in pain. Shaffer says while he has three other children to nurture and care for, he says he's not sure how they will move forward now that his oldest is behind bars.

"My son is gone. I mean he's here, but he's gone. I've got one that I probably won't see you unless it's behind bars or behind the glass. It sucks, it really does."

Now, this father has a message for other young drivers throughout the area.

"Slow down," Shaffer says. "Think before you act and don't be stupid. Drugs and driving really don't mix and this is proof of this. If you don't slow down, the mistakes that you make - they can affect you for the rest of your life. It's going to affect my son forever."

We stopped by Virginia Fairburn's home in Harlem Tuesday afternoon and spoke with her partner of 32 years. He says he's devastated by her loss and that she was the sweetest woman anyone would ever know, but he's thankful for the support he's gotten since the crash.

He says anyone looking to honor the memory of his partner, a breast cancer survivor, can do so by donating to breast cancer research.

Neighbors close to the crash site say the road is also known for accidents because of a curve and blind spots. Folks there call the curve along Old Union Road "Dead Man's Curve" after several car crashes over the years. The speed limit along that road is 55 miles per hour.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

HARLEM, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- One man has been charged in a head-on collision on Old Union Road that killed a 69-year-old woman.

Daniel Shaffer, 22, has been charged with homicide by vehicle, possession of schedule II drugs, driving under the influence of a controlled substance, failure to maintain lane, reckless driving, no proof of insurance, driving too fast for conditions, and for driving on the wrong side of the roadway.

Deputies say Shaffer lost control as he entered the curve and crossed into on-coming traffic. He then struck a white 1996 Toyota Camry head-on.

The driver of the Camry, Virginia Fairburn, of Harlem, was pronounced deceased at the scene. Law enforcement say Shaffer was transported to Augusta University Medical Center for serious injuries.

He was later released and is now in the Columbia County jail.



Monday, April 17, 2017

8:45 p.m.

HARLEM, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Columbia County deputies say a 69-year-old woman is dead after a head-on collision on Old Union Road.

Investigators say a BMW driven by Daniel Shaffer, 22, of Harlem, was traveling east on Old Union Road at an excessive speed. Witnesses told deputies the vehicle was going extremely fast just before a sharp curve.

Deputies say Shaffer lost control as he entered the curve and crossed into on-coming traffic. He then struck a white 1996 Toyota Camry head-on. The driver of the Camry, Virginia Fairburn, of Harlem, was pronounced deceased at the scene.

Law enforcement say Shaffer was transported to Augusta University Medical Center for serious injuries. They say charges are pending.



8:24 p.m.

HARLEM, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Deputies and the coroner have been called out to a fatal accident near Harlem High School.

Dispatchers said the accident happened a little before 6:00 p.m. Monday evening on Old Union Road.

Dispatchers say the coroner was called to the scene.

This is a developing story. There is very little information at this time, as we receive more details we will bring them to you.