The first wreck occurred at 2:42 p.m. at the intersection of North Expressway and Malier Road, and involved a Mercury Villager minivan, driven by an as-of-yet unidentified white male believed to be in his mid-40s, and a Ford Ranger, driven by 45-year-old Cade Newbern.
This incident led to the closure of both northbound lanes of U.S. Highway 19/41 for approximately an hour and a half.
Trooper William Schwab, of the Georgia State Patrol Griffin Post, said the wreck resulted when the driver of the Villager struck the Ranger immediately after the traffic light changed.
According to witnesses to the incident, after the collision, the driver of the Villager allegedly emerged from his vehicle, removed the license plate from the minivan and left on foot.
However, in his haste, the alleged hit-and-run suspect failed to retrieve his cell phone from the vehicle, enabling deputies with the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office to contact individuals listed in his phone, and urge them to have the suspect turn himself in to authorities.
“Both of the vehicles were traveling northbound on Highway 19/41. The vehicle that’s the hit-and-run vehicle struck the right rear of another vehicle,” said Trooper J.T. McMillan, public information officer for the GSP Griffin Post. “The light had changed and he came over and hit the other car, pushing him off the roadway. The (Villager’s) driver then got out and fled on foot.”
In addition to the ensuing ground search, Spalding County Sheriff Dee Stewart immediatley dispatched the department’s Special Operations Unit helicopter to aid in the search for the suspect.
As of press time, McMillan said the alleged hit-and-run driver had not yet been located, but that authorities were following leads in the case.
“There were witnesses, so we do have an idea of who he is,” McMillan said, adding that the removal of the license plate will do nothing to deter investigators from identifying the vehicle’s owner. “We can still identify him through the vehicle identification number.”
McMillan went on to say, “There were minor injuries in that one. He (Newbern) was transported to Spalding Regional Medical Center. As far as charges are concerned, we won’t know until the driver is located and we find out what the deal is. We’ll have to see if we can locate him first and then go from there.”
The second wreck, which involved a single vehicle, a 2001 K2500 driven by 39-year-old Glenn J. Pruitt, of Griffin, occurred at 3:56 p.m. on Moreland Road, resulting in a partial road closure for approximately one hour.
“In this wreck, the driver was coming around a curve too fast for conditions. He traveled onto the wrong side of the roadway, overcorrected and it caused him to lose control,” McMillan said. “He rolled over several times off of the northbound shoulder of the roadway. He came to a final stop in a ditch.”
McMillan said witnesses at the scene told Schwab that Pruitt had been “swerving all over the road” prior to the wreck.
“He (Pruitt) was first transported to Spalding Regional Medical Center and later life-flighted to Macon Medical Center,” McMillan said. “There are several charges pending and alcohol is suspected as a factor in this case.”