A man charged with DUI and a multitude of other infractions caused a bizarre multi-vehicle accident Friday, according to Georgia State Patrol reports.
Actually, the situation involved accidents at two separate locations — first on private property and then on the road — caused by the same man, reports stated. One of several victims involved suffered serious injuries and is recovering at Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah.
Accident reports regarding the series of crashes were unavailable until Wednesday. Georgia State Patrol Trooper Tyler Rickman investigated the accidents, which took place around 6:35 p.m.
The chaos began when James Jason Tanner, 35, of Jet Drive, driving a black 2001 Chevrolet Suburban, struck three parked vehicles in the Walgreens pharmacy parking lot, Rickman reported.
Tanner then exited the parking lot and drove over two curbs into the adjacent Enmark station parking lot, where he jumped another curb, striking the concrete base of a light pole, then a wire to another light pole, a phone pedestal and a pedestrian crosswalk signal, Rickman said.
He then drove onto Northside Drive East near Lovett and Lester roads, where he began traveling south in the northbound lane, reports stated. There, he caused a six-car pileup.
A white 2003 Ford Ranger driven by Johnny Wayne Stewart, 68, of Statesboro, was traveling southbound in the left lane when it was struck by Tanner, reports stated. Tanner’s Suburban then struck a silver 2010 Impala driven by Renada LaShae McCord, 35, of Rex, Georgia.
McCord, as well as a blue 2005 Nissan Altima driven by Asia Kelaya Miller, 23, of Allenhurst, and a red 2013 Chevrolet Cruze driven by Lizzie Danielle Mallard, 16, of Portal, were stopped at a red light in the right lane, Rickman said in reports.
The impact caused Stewart’s truck to rotate counterclockwise, hitting Miller’s car and then striking Mallard’s car. An oxygen tank flew from Stewart’s truck bed and also struck Miller’s vehicle, then crashed through the back glass of Mallard’s car.
Meanwhile, a blue 2015 Chevrolet Silverado driven by Milton C. Aspinwall, 32, of Statesboro, had turned the corner from Lovett Road onto Northside Drive East. Aspinwall said he saw Tanner’s truck heading toward him and was forced off the road.
”This was the craziest thing I ever saw in the middle of town,” he said on Wednesday. “I saw the Suburban hit a car, take down a pole and come at me.”
He said he froze at first and doesn’t know how Tanner missed his vehicle.
Mallard said she closed her eyes in fear at one point during the melee. After the oxygen tank crashed into her car, she said she jumped out, afraid it might explode.
“I was on the way to work and at a red light,” she said. “I saw the Suburban come out, flooring it. He never stopped. The whole front end was smashed, and he didn’t have a windshield. His Suburban was smoking, and it looked like he was going to hit us all.”
She said Tanner was “slumped over” in his vehicle.
Aspinwall said he thought the Suburban was without a driver — but when the crashes were over and he went to the vehicle to see, he found Tanner lying down inside.
He said Tanner uttered, “What the (expletive deleted) are you doing in my truck?”
Aspinwall said there were “about 200 people standing there and about five helped.” Stewart and a female victim were bleeding, and one man offered his shirt while a woman offered a towel to help, he said.
Tanner, who was transported to East Georgia Regional Medical Center by EMS, suffered minor injuries, reports stated. He is charged with reckless driving, DUI, obstruction, failure to maintain lane, improper turn, hit-and-run, open container, possession of a drug-related object and no proof of insurance. Reports stated he had no valid insurance.
Stewart and McCord were also transported to the hospital with what were listed as “nonfatal” injuries. McCord’s was listed as a head injury. No details of Stewart’s injuries were found in reports, but his stepdaughter Shalah Hendrix said on Wednesday that Stewart remains in the trauma unit at Memorial University Medical Center with “multiple rib fractures and several internal hematomas,” as well as an injury to his head that required it to be “stapled back together.”
Miller, Mallard and Aspinwall were not transported.
Tanner remained in the Bulloch County Jail on Wednesday evening on an $8,000 bond. He has a significant criminal history with Bulloch County law enforcement, including financial transaction card fraud as well as theft, according to jail records.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.