Despite the heroic efforts of several Good Samaritans, a Nevils woman died after an accident Thursday afternoon at the intersection of Brooklet-Denmark Road and Georgia Highway 67.
Bulloch County Coroner Jake Futch said 77-year-old Diane Sharpe “passed away at Doctors Hospital in Augusta as a result of the motor vehicle accident. She died of acute cardiac arrest due to shock. She suffered significant burns from the waist down.”
Sharpe’s husband Larry also was in the vehicle when it was hit. He was taken to Doctors Hospital, as well, and was undergoing surgery Friday, Futch said, due to the burns he suffered in the crash. No update was immediately available on Larry Sharpe’s condition.
Georgia State Patrol Sgt. Richard Sikes, who is commander of Post 45 in Statesboro, said an older model Jeep Cherokee carrying the Sharpe’s was stopped at the intersection of 67 and Brooklet-Denmark Road around noon Thursday. The Jeep pulled out in front of a Nissan sedan traveling southbound on 67, striking the side of the Jeep, causing it to overturn, according to Sikes.
At the same time, Vernon Osgood, a technician for Yates-Astro Termite and Pest Control in Statesboro, was ordering a sandwich at Subway inside the Chevron station at the 67/Brooklet-Denmark Road intersection. He said he heard a number of people in the shop let out a gasp and he quickly saw why.
“I looked out the window and saw a Jeep upside down and smoke coming from the vehicle,” he said. “The lady who was fixing my sandwich started going outside and I was right with her calling 911. In describing the scene to the operator, I saw the two women in the Nissan were sitting on the side of the road and told the operator they were OK.
“When we got to the upside-down Jeep, the elderly gentleman was fairly coherent and we could communicate with him, but the woman with him was not responsive.”
Osgood said they could see smoke and the man in the Jeep – Larry Sharpe – said he felt like he was getting burned. He said people now on the scene started going into businesses in the area and came out with fire extinguishers, which they used on the vehicle to try to control the fire.
At that point, Sgt. Sikes arrived on the scene and he could see the effort by Osgood and others to get the Sharpe's out of the vehicle.
“We were finally able to get them out,” Sikes said. “It took a few minutes because the doors were jammed shut due to the crash. We had to bust the windows out. I actually used my axe and crowbar and with the other bystanders there, we were able to open it up. It was tough because of all the smoke coming out. We couldn’t really tell where the fire was coming from due to the vehicle being upside down.”
Osgood, 42, said they were able to get Diane Sharpe out, and, finally, Larry Sharpe out after they were able to cut his seat belt.
A moment after extricating Larry Sharpe, the Jeep was engulfed.
“It was seconds after we were able to pull them out that the vehicle burst into flames,” Sikes said.
“It would have gone up sooner, but the bystanders were able to get some fire extinguishers and I got mine out of my patrol car and help beat the fire down enough to get them out.”
Sikes said the efforts of the bystanders to help the Sharpe's was impressive and brave.
“There was a lot involved,” he said. “There were a lot of good people that helped out. Who risked their own lives to try to save them and help them as best they could. It was a rough crash scene.”
And Osgood, who has lived in Statesboro since 2002, praised the spirit of everyone who tried to help.“It was a community effort,” he said. “Everybody out here helped. The construction guys at the site. A man who was shopping in Dollar General. A guy I think delivering Little Debbie cakes. We were just trying to save two souls. It was a blessing to see so many people come together with one thought to help the people in the Jeep.”
Highway 67 traffic light
A traffic signal is expected to soon be operational at the Highway 67 and Brooklet-Denmark intersection. After an initial delay due to the discovery of unknown utility lines, the Georgia Department of Transportation projected the light to be working by mid- to late October, but ran into another delay.
The completion date for the DOT contract is actually Dec. 31, 2022.