HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw plans to take the fight for a center-turning lane on U.S. 76, west of Hiawassee, to Atlanta next week where the commissioner will meet with Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and State Department of Transportation (DOT) Director Russell McMurry to discuss the pertinent topic. Bradshaw has persistently pushed for the lane addition since taking office, campaigning on a promise to make Towns County’s main highway safer for motorists.
Bradshaw’s decision to press the issue at the State Capitol came prior to the recent death of Randy Barnes Sr., a Hiawassee motorcyclist who lost his life following an Aug. 13 accident in the area of highest safety concern, the stretch of roadway in the vicinity of Papa’s Pizza.
“I’m going to plead our case,” Commissioner Bradshaw told FYN on Tuesday. “It’s a life or death situation. It causes great concern and getting something done is a promise that I plan to keep. We’re going to the top and we’re going to push hard.”
According to district research conducted by the Department of Transportation, the task of widening the highway could prove to be a difficult feat. With Lake Chatuge bordering U.S. 76 to the north, and steep embankments on the southern slope, issues with construction logistics were cited by the department in April 2018. While it may be possible to install turning lanes in critical areas, a continuous stretch of center roadway may not be feasible. “We’ll be happy with that, but that’s not what we want,” Bradshaw said.
Citizens continued to speak out on the danger surrounding the portion of highway in question, following the recent fatality, taking to social media to make their concerns known.
UPDATED, Aug. 26: Tomorrow’s meeting between Commissioner Bradshaw and Governor Kemp has been postponed due to a funeral that the governor will attend. Bradshaw reported that the meeting will soon be rescheduled.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – A two vehicle accident claimed the life of Hiawassee resident Randy Barnes, 59, during the early morning hours of Wednesday, Aug. 14. Barnes was traveling on his motorcycle on State Route 76, Aug. 13, when an employee exiting the parking lot of Papa’s Pizza collided with the victim.
Barnes suffered extensive injuries upon impact, and was transported Tuesday afternoon via medical helicopter to Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville for trauma care.
Georgia State Patrol is investigating the fatal accident.
Mr. Barnes’s obituary reads:
Randy was born February 14, 1960 to Lula Bell (Arrowood) Barnes and the late Van Barnes. Randy is what most would call a “Salt of the Earth Man”. You rarely saw him without his cowboy boots, hat, cellphone and his sunglasses. He loved his family including his dog Ella; he and his wife, Lorene were happily married for 39 years, raised two children who then blessed them with grandchildren. He loved being a grandfather, was fun, and lived to entertain his grandchildren and all children really. Randy was a hardworking man who was devoted to his work and loved his coworkers at Southwire like family. He was a social butterfly, never met a stranger and made friends everywhere. In fact most mornings he would meet a few coworkers at Main Street Grill for a biscuit and if he was not going to be there he would call and let them know they didn’t need to make his biscuit that day. When he was not enjoying his normal biscuit you could find him at the hospital cafeteria complimenting the cooks on their cooking, especially their biscuits and gravy. He loved to ride his motorcycle, hunt, fish and watch sports whether it was the Atlanta Braves, Georgia Bulldogs or his grandkids playing. Randy was a happy man as long as his family was happy. He and Lorene enjoyed just sitting on their porch listening to country or gospel music until Lorene told him to put on his earphones. Randy is preceded in death by his father Van Barnes and his brother Jeff Barnes. He is survived in death by his wife Lorene Barnes; mother Lula Bell Barnes; daughter and son-in-law Nikisha and Bradley Clampitt of Hayesville, NC; son Randy Barnes; brother and sister-in-law Tim and Delores Barnes of Hiawassee; brother Danny Barnes of Hiawassee; sister and brother-in-law Lecia and Robin Bryan of Hayesville, NC, Kathie and Dave Griffin of Alpharetta, GA and Sandra and the late Lester Craig of Hiawassee; grandchildren Natalie Barnes, Briley Clampitt, Brody Clampitt, and Lily Clampitt; and a number of nieces and nephews. Also surviving are many friends that will dearly miss him.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – An early morning accident claimed the life of a 41 year old male delivery truck driver on State Route 76 near Frog Pond Road, west of Hiawassee city limits. First responders were dispatched to the scene of the single vehicle accident at 6:31 am, Saturday, Aug. 3.
The driver was traveling eastbound, toward Ingles in Hiawassee, when the commercial vehicle crossed the westbound lane of traffic, colliding with a pole. Skid marks were not apparent on the roadway, suggesting that the driver did not appear to brake prior to impact.
The cause of the fatal crash is under investigation by Georgia State Patrol at this time.
UPDATE: The driver of the vehicle was identified as Matthew Eggley of Hayesville, NC.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – A second motorcyclist in less than a week was airlifted for medical treatment, suffering multiple trauma injuries, after crashing on State Route 75, south of Hiawassee, Thursday, June 27. Emergency responders were dispatched to the scene shortly before 7 p.m.
The victim was described as an older male, traveling northbound toward Hiawassee when the accident occurred. The motorcyclist appeared to have been attempting to pass a vehicle, also traveling northbound, which was nearing a turn from the highway onto Soapstone Creek Road when the crash ensued. The driver of the vehicle did not suffer major injuries as a result of the collision.
A motorcycle accident occurred last Friday, June 21, on State Route 76, near Hiawassee Vegetable and Fruit Market. The male driver, who suffered chest trauma, was airlifted for emergency treatment due to the extent of his injuries. A female passenger was transported by ambulance to Union General Hospital for medical care. No other vehicles were involved in Friday’s crash.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Emergency responders were dispatched at 10:31 am, Friday, June 21, to a report of a motorcycle accident on state Route 76, in the vicinity of Hiawassee Fruit and Vegetable Market.
A male victim in the single vehicle crash suffered chest trauma, and was airlifted to Gainesville for medical treatment. A female passenger was transported by ambulance to Union General Hospital.
The cause of the accident is undetermined at this time.
While the motorcyclists were properly helmeted in accordance with Georgia law, 42 percent of motorcyclists who were fatally injured in 2010 were unhelmeted. According to the Center for Disease Control, helmets saved over 1,500 riders’ lives, although roughly 700 additional lives could have been saved if all riders had worn helmets. On average, states with a universal helmet law, like Georgia, save eight times more riders’ lives per 100,000 motorcycle registrations each year, compared to states without a helmet law, and save three times more riders’ lives per 100,000 motorcycle registrations each year, compared to states with a partial helmet law.
YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. – Three months have passed since a fatal crash took the life of Hiawassee resident Terry Silvers, leaving two victims injured, a 911 caller traumatized, and the citizens of Towns County questioning the responsibilty of the authorities involved in the controversial tragedy.
On the evening of Saturday, Feb.23, a “be-on-the-lookout” (BOLO) for a reckless driver was issued by Towns County 911 to the Towns County Sheriff’s Office, a call that went unanswered by Corporal Gregory Joseph – the sole deputy assigned to that particular zone – shortly before the deadly collision occurred.
Towns County 911 Director Marty Roberts recently spoke with FetchYourNews (FYN), clarifying the process employed by the emergency agency. “A BOLO is a BOLO,” Roberts explained. “There isn’t different levels of urgency. The dispatcher handled the Feb. 23 call correctly. The key was when the driver was identified as Silvers. We typically do not dispatch a subject’s name.”
Corporal Joseph had responded to an accident involving Silvers the previous night, allowing the father of six to leave the scene without facing charges, despite testimony from witnesses who claimed the now-deceased was obviously impaired. Silvers, who had a criminal record, was known by local law enforcement to suffer from drug addiction. Furthermore, an additional Silvers’ accident took place a few months prior, with the same deputy in question responding to a vehicle rollover.
Family members of Silvers, as well as the 911 caller, have publicly speculated that because Silvers was identified by dispatchers, Towns County Sheriff’s Office may have opted to disregard the turned-fatal BOLO.
Towns County’s 911 director emphasized that the deputy who bypassed the BOLO was not dispatched by 911 to the possible prowler call in the eastern zone, a call which was adequately covered by a second deputy and a Hiawassee police officer. Early into FYN’s investigation, Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton denied departmental responsibility in a statement issued to the county’s legal organ, shifting focus toward Towns County 911. The sheriff has yet to answer questions posed by investigative reporters.
Although Towns County 911 is its own separate entity, Roberts said that the responsibility to alter the system lies within the Towns County Sheriff’s Office. “We dispatch according to the protocol the department sets,” Roberts stated. “We are always willing to improve.”
11Alive News in Atlanta is scheduled to broadcast their investigation into Towns County Sheriff’s Office involvement in the well-known tragedy this evening, May 26, at 6 p.m.
Additional articles on the subject, including the audio from the viral 911 call, are available by clicking this highlighted link.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Near-death experiences have a way of directing lives toward a destiny that was unknown prior to the encounter, and coupled with a spiritual revelation, the results can be profound. That proved to be the case for Dr. Anthony Sirianni. For the first time in 16 years, the criminal justice professor from North Georgia Technical College publicly shared his story of a second chance at life, at the hands of an angel, with the Mountain Movers and Shakers, Friday, May 3, 2019.
Dr. Sirianni moved to sunny Sarasota at the age of 18 by a test a faith. The now-professor told the story of how he closed his happy-go-lucky eyes and pressed a push pin toward a map of Florida, soon to set path on a journey far from home. Anthony knew from the tender age of six what he wanted to become some day; a police officer, a knowing built from a childhood experience when a small town chief helped the lost and fearful boy find his way home. Anthony’s 28 year career in law enforcement began as a corrections officer at the Sarasota County Detention Center, graduating to patrolling the streets of Florida’s west coast at the age of 21. Life was good, and life pressed on.
On the evening of Feb. 8, 2003, at two minutes before midnight, however, the K-9 officer’s life was forever changed. Anthony was driving his patrol vehicle, during what he thought would be a routine shift, when he saw headlights quickly approaching in his lane of traffic. The head-on collision was so fierce that the engine block of his assigned Chevrolet Tahoe was launched through the windshield. The intoxicated driver of the oncoming vehicle had suffered the repercussions of her third DUI.
As Professor Sirianni recounted what followed, the audience at Sundance Grill sat spellbound by his emotive words. Though physically unconcious, Anthony vividly recalled an unseen force taking hold of his shoulders, pulling him from the mangled wreckage, while hearing the phrase, “It’s not time.” The officer was laid to rest by the spirit in a patch of nearby bushes, and witnessed the arrival of first responders. Firefighters hung their heads, looking down upon his battered body in sorrow, telling one another that there was no way that the K-9 officer could possibly survive. “I wasn’t ejected,” Tony explained, stiffling sentiment. “How did I get out of the car?”
Anthony’s first thoughts were of his canine, and throughout the out-of body experience, the officer recalled pleading with medical crews to tend to his beloved dog, Amazingly, Anthony’s partner suffered but a fractured tail. Anthony was less fortunate, however, enduring months of painful surgeries to heal his shattered bones. Throughout his recovery, Anthony knew with doubt that his life had been spared to serve a greater purpose, and he knew he must venture on. In 2015, the officer retired from active law enforcement, attended college, and earned an eventual doctorate’s degree. The cop turned criminal justice professor believes, heart and soul, that his life was “saved to touch lives.” Anthony recounted an example of a drug addicted woman who once begged for treatment as he served as a narcotic sergeant, prior to retirement. The officer answered the addict’s plea for change, and reported that the woman successfully turned her life around, passing forward the grace that she was granted.
Dr. Sirianni explained that his newfound purpose exceeded law enforcement and teaching criminal justice, however. “We’re here to care for each other. It’s beyond partisanship. It’s beyond politics,” the professor confided. Anthony concluded his talk by adding that police officers are stigmatized as tough and unwilling to share their vunerable sides with all but their inner circle. While Anthony struggled to repress rightful emotion while expressing his experience, the professor relayed that it was a story that needed to be told.
Questions from the attentive group followed, with one guest asking what could be done to lessen the negative press associated with law enforcement officers in this day and age. The teacher replied in part, “There’s so much (good) that doesn’t make the paper.”
The collective mood was measurable as the weekly meeting adjourned, with guests commenting to one another on how fascinating the subject matter had been. Friends could be overheard discussing their own past encounters with angels. One thing is for certain, lives were altered that May morning as a result of hearing Anthony’s truth
YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. – A head-on, two vehicle collision occurred on Young Harris mountain, State Route 76, shortly before 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 2.
The drivers of the vehicles sustained serious injuries and were air-lifted for medical treatment.
Georgia State Patrol is investigating the accident.