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One person dies in crash

COVINGTON -- Cpl. Shane Allen of Georgia State Patrol Post 46 said the only traffic fatality the post worked during the Christmas holiday period occurred Sunday morning around 7:15 on Ga. Highway 138, near the Forrester Cemetery Road intersection in Walton County.

GSP Post 46 troopers patrol in Rockdale, Newton and Walton counties.

Allen said a green Suburu Legacy station wagon was traveling west, headed in the direction of Walnut Grove, and "for unknown reasons" crossed the center line of the roadway and entered the eastbound traffic where it struck a white Dodge Ram van head on.

"The driver of the van attempted to swerve out of the path of the Legacy, but was unsuccessful and they hit head on," Allen said. "There were four occupants in the van, but only two seats. The other two occupants were in the back of the van in the cargo area and were unrestrained." One of them, Gerardo Nunez, 16, of McDonough, was killed, he said.

Two other occupants of the van and the driver of the Suburu were critically injured and flown to Atlanta trauma centers. The driver of the van complained of chest and lower abdomen pain and was transported by ground ambulance to Walton Regional Medical Center.

Allen said toxicology results and charges are pending in connection with the crash.

According to the GSP and the Crash Reporting Unit, 31 of the 46 fatal accidents reported during the holiday seasons last year involved passengers who were not wearing their seatbelts.

Authorities predict 2,330 traffic crashes, 1,004 injuries, and 16 fatalities during the upcoming New Year's holiday period starting at 6 p.m. Thursday and running through midnight Sunday.

"Now through the first weekend of the new year is when troopers see an increase in the number of vehicles on the roads and an increase in the number of impaired drivers as well," said Colonel Bill Hitchens, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety. "Stepped up patrols will be conducted in an effort to keep the number of traffic crashes as low as possible."