HIAWASSEE, Ga.- Towns County held a special-called meeting last week to advance plans for the county’s updated 911 command center. A five-year lease agreement was signed with AT&T, in conjunction with West Safety Services, at a cost of $4.260 per month for the emergency telecommunications service. Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw explained that while the county considered purchasing the service, the lease agreement proved to be the better bargain due to maintenance and service costs associated with an owned system.
Bradshaw previously signed a contract in July 2019, upgrading the county’s computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system for emergency services. Towns County 911 Director Marty Roberts explained that the improved system will be custom-tailored to Towns County and that the program is expected to be up and running in late March or early April of 2020. The cost of the enhanced CAD system totals nearly $213,000, a price that Bradshaw defined as a “tremendous amount of money.” The charge is roughly half of the amount that the commissioner expected to spend on the program upon taking office, however, and Bradshaw expressed approval, referencing computer-aided dispatch as “the heartbeat of 911.”
911 dispatchers will receive additional training prior to the introduction of the advanced system, and the hardware and software – with servers, links, and terminals – are included in the modernized package. Roberts said that mobile CADs will be installed in ambulances for the first time in county history, allowing paramedics to view precise locations of medical emergencies on maps while exchanging critical information with the call center. The system will subsequently reduce radio traffic, freeing talk-time over the airwaves. The same company which has provided CAD service in Towns County for more than a decade will supply the innovated program. Union and White counties currently employ a similar system.
Roberts, who described the soon-to-be advanced center as second to none, said that the upgraded phone system will “cut live” simultaneously with the CAD program in early spring, and an open house will be held at the Towns County Emergency Operations Center.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – A crowd of citizens and first responders gathered on Hiawassee Town Square Sept. 11 at 9:45 a.m. to memorialize the dreadful day, eighteen years prior, that will forever live in the hearts and minds of Americans.
Elected officials and several pastors spoke at the Sept. 11 memorial event, offering solemn words of remembrance and emphasizing the profound effects of unity.
Young Harris Mayor Andrea Gibby shared opening remarks. “So many times this particular community comes together for all kinds of things, from events to dinners, to plays to fun, but today, you came together, we came together to remember what happened, to pay tribute, and to never forget that horrible things can happen, and we can still come together as a community, and hopefully not only remember those that we lost, but prevent something terrible from happening again,” Gibby said. “I haven’t fought like some of you have. I haven’t been in war. I haven’t fought fires or fought criminals, but like many people across our nation, I’m here with you to remember and pay respect to those people who lost their lives.”
Appalachian Saint Andrews Pipes played somber tunes, and several prayers were said throughout the ceremony. Towns County Fire Chief Harold Copeland tolled a bell in honor of the thousands of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001.
“When you think about the pride and patriotism, you know, just a couple of days after this happened, you couldn’t find an American flag nowhere,” Towns County Fire Chief Harold Copeland recalled. “They were all sold out. You couldn’t find a flag. They were lining sidewalks all over the county. People had them on their vehicles, in their yards, everywhere. And as Mayor Gibby said, there was bi-partisianship and I know we don’t see that. Can it happen again? Can it happen today? Could it be a nuke, cyber attack? It could happen any minute, and I can assure you that everybody out here – there’s law enforcement in uniform, firefighters in uniform…our EMS people…they’re ready to respond just like they did on 9/11.”
Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw said that the Sept.11 memorial ceremony will become an annual event in Towns County.
Feature Image: Towns County School Resource Officer and Pastor Donnie Jarrard kneeling in prayer.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – It has been nearly eighteen years since the infamous day that will eternally live in American minds – Sept. 11, 2001. Towns County, along with the City of Hiawassee, plans to honor the terrorist attack victims on Patriot Day. Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, and Towns County Fire Chief Harold Copeland met Aug. 29 to finalize the details of a Wednesday, Sept. 11 public memorial. Hiawassee Town Square will be the site of the gathering, beginning at 9:45 a.m.
Mayor Ordiales will serve as the master of ceremonies, with Young Harris Mayor Andrea Gibby welcoming guests. Presentation of the Colors will be issued by North Georgia National Guard. Pastors Danny Byers, Wade Lott, and Donnie Jarrard will offer prayers and words of remembrance in honor of the lives lost. Chief Copeland is scheduled to speak on the meaning of 9/11, prior to ringing a bell to symbolize the fallen. Summer Rahn will sing the National Anthem. The program will end with “God Bless America.”
Commissioner Bradshaw said that the idea to hold the memorial ceremony was presented by part-time Towns County resident Bob Fair. “I wish it was something that we had thought to do sooner,” Bradshaw said. Bradshaw added plans to make the service an annual event.
A total of 2,996 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks, including the 19 terrorist hijackers aboard the four airplanes. Citizens of 78 countries died in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. At the World Trade Center, 2,763 died after the two planes slammed into the twin towers. That figure includes 343 firefighters and paramedics, 23 New York City police officers, and 37 Port Authority police officers who were struggling to complete an evacuation of the buildings and save the office workers trapped on higher floors.
At the Pentagon, 189 people were killed, including 64 on American Airlines Flight 77, the airliner that struck the building. On Flight 93, 44 people died when the plane crash-landed in Pennsylvania.
YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. – Emergency 911 operators are a literal lifeline for those in need of assistance from law enforcement, fire departments, or urgent medical services. Annually adopted, April 14-20 marked “National Telecommunications Week,” a period set aside to recognize the crucial, behind-the-scene duties conducted by dispatchers. Towns County 911 hosted a barbeque dinner, complete with southern side dishes, at the Emergency Operations Center in Young Harris, April 22, in appreciation of the difficult, demanding jobs our local 911 operators perform.
Towns County dispatchers serve 12 hour shifts, with two operators assigned per stretch. One dispatcher receives emergency calls while relaying pertinent information to their partner. The second operator “tones” and transmits the details to the appropiate first responder units. At times, dispatchers find themselves juggling multiple calls, all the while remaining calm and composed despite the magnitude of a crisis.
“They’re locked in this room, twelve hours a day, and there’s times when there’s a lull, but when it gets busy, it’s just crazy,” 911 Director Marty Roberts told FYN. “They work really hard, and people kind of forget about them because they’re in here. When we have something like this, when we can recognize them, we let them know that we think about them, and acknowledge that they do a hard job. We’re proud of them. I’ve got some of the best dispatchers in the country. I’d put them up against anybody. They do a wonderful job.”
Deputies from Towns County Sheriff’s Office, personnel from Towns County Emergency Medical Services, and Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw attended the dinner. “I can’t thank 911 enough for all that they do,” Commissioner Bradshaw said. “They truly care. They put their heart and soul into it. They do an outstanding job.”
Feature Photo: (L-R) Towns County 911 Dispatchers: Presley Smith, Christine Vannus, Michelle Hedden, Ashley Walker, Trina Campbell, Robyn Henson, 911 Director Marty Roberts, Phillip Ivester, Karen Abercrombie, Wayne Canterberry
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Terry Silvers, 52, a resident of Hiawassee, suffered fatal injuries Saturday, Feb. 23, in Clay County, NC, after the pickup truck that he was driving collided with another vehicle on NC-69. FYN released information three days after the deadly crash, divulging that Silvers had been involved in an accident in Towns County the night prior to his death.
Towns County Sheriff’s Office responded to the Friday evening incident on Bugscuffle Road, and Silvers was released without charges. The accident report stated that alcohol or substance screenings were not conducted. Towns County Sheriff’s Office reported that the accident was the result of shifting firewood in the bed of Silvers’ truck.
Multiple individuals contacted FYN to speak on behalf of Silvers, two of whom requested to go on-record, asserting that they believe Silvers would still be alive had local law enforcement reacted to prior incidents in a different manner.
“Towns County Sheriff’s Office needs to be investigated,” Mark Silvers, brother of the victim, began. “Not only did Terry wreck the night before. but there were more times before that. Towns County law was on scene, and my brother was let go. He should have been locked up. People were telling them that he was messed up, and if they’d done their job the night before the fatal night, my brother would be alive. Towns County law should be fully responsible for his death. If they’d done their job and locked him up Friday night, my brother would still be with us today. He’s been let go many times.”
Mark Silvers went on to say that his brother battled an opioid addiction. “Even though he wasn’t drunk, the law should have known he was on drugs. A lot people told them, ‘What was it going to take? Him to kill someone or kill himself before they do something?’ and by that time, it was too late.”
Silvers iterated that numerous individuals had conveyed to Towns County Sheriff’s Office on multiple occassions that Terry Silvers was under the influence of narcotics, and that Silvers should not return behind the wheel without facing legal consequences.
Belinda Munger, a former Towns County 911 dispatcher and neighbor of Silvers, additionally contacted FYN, stating that Silvers had a history of drug use and accidents. On different occassions, Munger stated that Towns County Sheriff’s Office responded to accidents which Silvers was involved, although the now-deceased was not taken into custody. Munger reported that in December, 2017, Silvers was involved in an accident in front of her home. Munger said that she described what ensued to responding deputies. “We also had told them he was under the influence of pills and it was very obvious…,” Munger explained. “I was very distraught, had he not hit the tree, he would have ran into my house, into my son’s bedroom. The officers advised my neighbor, when she showed up, that they did not have to notify her, even though it was her property where he wrecked. I tried to reach out to (Towns County) Sheriff (Chris) Clinton, but there was no attempt of a returned phone call from him. Nothing more came of this call.”
Upon suggestion from a confidential source, FYN filed an open record request to review 911 audio of the “be-on-the-lookout” (BOLO) issued to Towns County Sheriff’s Office immediately prior to Silvers death.
Heather Segars, a local resident, called 911 to report Silvers’ white Toyota driving recklessly on Highway 76, immediately prior to the fatal accident. Throughout the audio, Segars pleads for law enforcement to quickly respond. “He’s gonna kill somebody” is repeated on the graphic tape.
In the recording, a blaring siren can be heard as Segars pulls behind Silvers into the parking lot of Cornerstone BP, at the intersection of Highway 76 and Highway 17, in Young Harris. “There’s the law right there that’s passing me,” Segar says, to which the dispatcher responds,”Yeah, they’re going to another call.” Segars then identified the driver as Terry Silvers. Segars continued to follow Silvers’ vehicle as it exited the Cornerstone BP parking lot, headed north on Highway 17 toward the Georgia-North Carolina state line, with Segars begging the dispatcher to remain on the line. “Please, they’ve got to hurry…I’ve got to make sure he gets pulled over,” Segar pleads in the dramatic audio, “Where are they at?!”
The emergency recording documents Segars pursuing Silvers into Clay County, NC. The 911 operator stated prior that Clay County Sheriff’s Office had been notified. “Are they close?” Segars asked, “He’s in other lanes, cars coming.”
Segars can be heard screaming and weeping as she witnessed the fatal accident occur near King’s Pharmacy, south of Hayesville. Silvers re-entered into the southbound lane of traffic, colliding head-on with another vehicle occupied by a grandmother and her granddaughter. The family sustained non-life threatening injuries. “Oh God, he’s dead…,” Segars is heard crying, “I tried to tell y’all to hurry!”
Segars told someone at the scene, “I’ve been on the phone with 911 since Hiawassee…Oh God, he’s dead. I’ve been on the phone since Papa’s Pizza.” A siren can be heard arriving at the scene of the accident as the tragic call ends.
According to emergency responders, Silvers died upon collision with the oncoming vehicle, the result of firewood ejecting into the cab of the Toyota pickup that he was driving. North Carolina Highway Patrol stated that Silvers did not appear to brake prior to impact, and that road conditions were not unfavorable at the time of the deadly crash. North Carolina Highway Patrol requested a toxicology screen on Silvers, and the investigation remains open. Results of the toxicology test are expected in coming weeks.
FYN contacted Towns County Sheriff’s Office, offering an opportunity to provide a response. A statement had not been received at the time of publication.
From the Desk of Sheriff Christopher M. Clinton
Towns County, Georgia
September 11, 2001 is a day I will never forget. I had spent the night before on a 12-hour shift as a patrol deputy. My wife woke me up to tell me about the first plane. As we watched in horror, we saw the first footage of flight 175 striking the south tower. I remember feeling like I had to do something. I did what a lot of other law enforcement officers did – I put on my gear and went back to work, without sleeping, in case I was needed. All of us knew that we were facing something we had never dealt with in the past. A lot changed that day.
We must always remember those who lost their lives and keep their families in prayer. American children are growing up without their mom or dad. Families have lost loved ones. We, as Americans, must always remember them and honor that memory.
On September 11, 2012, Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty all lost their lives in an attack in Benghazi, Libya.
September 11 is also a day that Towns County Deputy James Taylor lost his life in the line of duty in 1981. Twenty years before the Twin Towers, a Towns County family suffered the loss of a father, husband, brother, and the whole community felt the loss of a local hero. I cannot help but to think of the Taylor family each year on this day. Deputy Taylor gave the ultimate sacrifice protecting and serving the people of this great county and we should remember his family in our prayers. The families of those who serve are affected much harder than the majority of people ever realize. We should all remember to keep these families in our prayers and especially those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
This weekend I attended and had the privilege of speaking to a group of riders at their annual 9-11 memorial ride. My friend, Dr. Dan Eichenbaum, a local ophthalmologist, a Cherokee County, NC commissioner, radio personality (Dr. Dan’s Freedom Forum), public speaker, and all around patriot made a statement that I believe to be profound. He reminded us of the importance of remembering the sacrifices of those who gave all. He said, “A man does not die until he is forgotten.”
Let us never forget.
Seventeen years ago, I’m certain you were inundated with people saying “Never forget” and newscasts saying “We will always remember.”
Indeed, the entire nation, and even the world, poured out its heart for America and the major wound we were struck with. It is the kind of thing that people everywhere will remember. The kind of thing that I will tell my children about. It is indeed something one cannot easily forget.
Even the numbers dredge up memories of all kinds. And honestly, not all of them are bad. I have fond memories of that day. Shock, gasp. I know you may have anger at hearing that but think of yourself on that day. Did you have people with you? Were you amongst friends? Do you remember people all over the world start saying ‘we.’
Today, we find anything we can to show how different we are from one another. We are a divided country. I don’t want to take a side and tell you that you are wrong, whatever you think. It is honestly probably why we have issues. We can’t disagree without getting angry.
But think back to that day…
I sat among fellow students in a freshman orientation class in high school. It is scarred into the wall of my brain that our desks were placed in a circle and I had only one or two of my “friends” in the class. There was even a guy in that class that I really did not like. We did not get along and we did not like each other at all. My how quickly and easily that melted away in the glow of a tv screen as I, first hand, watched a second plane fly into the building.
I feel its impact even today, and I was nowhere near New York. I couldn’t feel it at the time, but today I can remember my body shook when it hit, as if it hit me just as hard as it hit the building.
I remember hearing the report about another one hitting the Pentagon. I remember not doing anything in any class except one, Algebra. I remember the rage that permeated every person in that school that day. Not just anger, a burning rage threatening to engulf your soul. A rage that broke chains and welled up from somewhere incredibly dark near the bottom of my stomach. It was more powerful because it sensed itself in every other person.
Seventeen years, do you remember?
Do you remember the songs written and speeches made? Do you remember being an American? Forget the conspiracies about it, forget the doubt about what really happened. Do you remember that specific moment of impact?
It’s not a special anniversary, it’s not the ten or twenty year anniversary. This long since something and we as people tend to only really recall things on nice, round-numbered years.
Are we remembering? Have we forgotten even though we said we wouldn’t?
I don’t think so. I think seventeen years later, people still hurt. I know the people you don’t speak to on this day and the people who need you to speak on this day.
I know the guy who plans a trip every September. I know he doesn’t actually go anywhere except into the woods to be alone. We don’t talk about his trips, I just understand his Dad was in New York that day on business. Isolated near a stream maybe, maybe he’s up a tree. I don’t know where he is, but inside I hear him screaming at the top of his lungs in his isolation.
I know the woman who holds her son up like a banner for his service because she never had the chance to see him grow into anything else after he died fighting for us.
I see counties and cities holding memorials on this day, but I see something else. I see the separation. I see the people forgetting something along the way.
I can’t forget that pain. I can’t forget that day. I can’t forget that tv. I can’t forget the faces. I didn’t lose anyone close to me. I had friends who served, but I didn’t lose anyone so close as a brother, sister, father, mother, cousin. I have been so lucky, so why is this day forever seared into my soul?
Maybe I’m being emotional? Maybe I’m thinking too much? Will you judge me for that? Will you think less if I can’t let go? Or would it be worse if I didn’t care?
What if I didn’t write this and you never read it? You’d go about your day and maybe you would think about what today is or maybe it’d slip by as you try to finish that project just get through a tough day. What if we let this day fade into history as a footnote and we never look back to think about the feelings of that day, the pain, the rage, the hurt, the solace, the people?
What if we forgot?
**CURRENT UPDATE: 911 communications have been restored.
Towns County, GA – Fetch Your News has received word from the Emergency Management Agency that 911 in Towns and surrounding counties are experiencing technical difficulties.
County and utility service providers are working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
If an attempt to call 911 from Towns County isn’t immediately connected to dispatch, dial 706.400.4041
**UPDATE: It appears only cell phones can reach the number listed above.
Emergency Services can be reached by dialing 706.994.6995 from Towns County landlines. This number is temporary and will be disconnected once 911 lines are restored.
Union County 911 can be reached at 706.439.6038
Gilmer County 911 has been reported as operational.
Shortly after the incident involving a wreck of a Tour Bus and a Semi-Truck on Highway 515 in Gilmer County, Tony Pritchett, Director of Public Safety for Gilmer County, held a conference to answer questions.
Director Pritchett stated a call came in to Gilmer County 911 at 11:02 for response to the accident.
When FYN arrived on the scene, several helicopters were still circling the area including both news choppers and Life-Flight services. The accident is suspected at this time by authorities to have occurred while a tour bus was traveling north on Highway 515 collided with a Semi-Truck who was crossing into or across the highway from Whitestone Road.
Minutes after the call came in, emergency response was on the scene to provide care and Gilmer County also responded with its Mass Casualties Trailer to aid in on-scene triage. Pritchett confirmed one fatality in the wreck belonging to the driver of the Tour bus. While four people remained uninjured, another 43 have sustained injuries requiring one to be Life-Flighted and others transported via ambulance to local hospitals including Fannin Regional Hospital, Northside Cherokee Hospital, and Piedmont Mountainside Hospital according to Pritchett.
FYN has been informed that the tour bus was carrying a majority of elderly passengers and had sustained extensive damage collapsing the front end. However, the quick response units were able to arrive and get on the bus quickly to begin caring for those on board.
More aid was quickly brought to the scene as well due to several mutual aid agreements in place with surrounding areas. In fact, authorities from Gilmer Fire and Rescue and EMS as well as Gilmer County Sheriff’s Department, Georgia State Patrol, Fannin County EMS Resources, Pickens County EMS Resources, Dawson County EMS Resources, and Murray County EMS Resources were all confirmed to be on-scene aiding with the incident. Pritchett went on to say he was “very thankful for the response of those surrounding jurisdictions, they were very helpful.”
While the limited sight distance at the location was referenced as a possible factor with the incident, no official statement was given with regards to cause or circumstance involved in the incident as the investigation is ongoing. Director Pritchett did confirm with FYN that he could recall at least one other incident involving a fatality occurring at the same location earlier this year. Witnesses have also been confirmed on scene and are speaking with officials at this time.
Currently, 515 will remain shutdown as a continuing investigation will be undertaken by the Georgia State Patrol and authorities are redirecting traffic around the accident. One traffic officer FYN talked with suggested those heading North on 515 to detour down Highway 136 to Old 5 to bypass it.
For more information on the accident and the Press Conference watch the video below and stay connected with Fetch Your News as more information becomes available.