A veteran Eatonton police officer has been found at fault in connection with a wreck involving his patrol car and an 18-wheeler, state authorities say. No one was injured in the accident.
Officer James Gaither was listed for failure to yield, “even though he didn’t blatantly do it,” Georgia State Patrol Sgt. Tracy Webb said, noting Gaither’s view of the road was blocked by other tractor-trailer rigs.
Gaither was en route to an emergency call in reference to an alarm around 4 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug.
29. While driving his 2009 Crown Victoria patrol car, with sirens and blue lights flashing, from West Marion Street through the intersection of the Eatonton By-pass/U.S. Hwy. 441 and Ga. Hwy. 16 (at Ingles), the traffic light changed from green to red as he approached it, according to Webb.
Two tractor-trailer trucks had been stopped on Hwy. 441 at the red light, and another was approaching the intersection behind them, traveling north. Because the light changed to green, the 43-year-old driver, of Rockledge, noticed no one was in the inside lane and moved into it to go around the stopped trucks, Webb said.
Gaither’s view was obscured by the two stopped trucks, so he proceeded to continue west through the intersection, even though the light had just changed to red, and his car struck the 2016 Freightliner in the process.
Because the tractor trailer had slowed down for the traffic light that was changing color, the wreck was not as bad as it could have been otherwise, Webb said. Eatonton Police Chief Kent Lawrence said the patrol car was completely totaled.
“But I am glad he (Gaither) and the other driver are okay,” he said. “I can replace a car, but not one of my officers.”