A public safety official said a mixture of smoke and early morning fog was the cause of several traffic accidents along Interstate 16 early Thursday morning, including one that killed two Brunswick men.
A portion of Interstate 16 as well as a length of Ga. 67 were closed to traffic Thursday as state troopers responded to four accidents in the area and Georgia Forestry Commission employees worked to make the area safe, said Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn.
Myles Nelson Grant, 61, Fairway Oaks Drive, Brunswick, was driving a 2001 Cadillac Deville westbound near the 128 mile marker around 5:30 a.m. when he apparently encountered a wall of thick white smog, said Georgia State Patrol Post 45 Commander Sgt. Josh Lamb.
Just in front of him, Roderick Massell Cook, 54, Rendant Avenue, Savannah, had slowed his 18-wheeler due to the limited vision, partially caused by smoke from a fire Wednesday evening, and was preparing to pull over, Lamb said.
Grant, who was riding with his son, Joel Davon Grant, 22, of the same Brunswick address, slammed into the rear of the 18-wheeler tanker. Both men were killed instantly, he said. Cook suffered complaints.
Wynn said the interstate was blocked from Ga. 67 to the Ash Branch Road exit. "We believe smoke was a factor," he said, referring to smoke believed to have remained in the area from a wildfire that raged Wednesday afternoon on Horace Mitchell Road.
Bulloch County Fire Chief Randy Walker said firefighters and Georgia Forestry workers battled the blaze Wednesday, working to save several structures threatened by the fire. Bulloch County firefighters worked four hours and forestry officials stayed even later, watching for hot spots, he said.
The area was clear of smoke when he left around 6 p.m. Wednesday, he said.
Georgia Forestry Public Information Office Paul Robertson said Thursday the wildfire consumed over 45 acres, and the cause has yet to be determined. A forestry investigator was to conduct an investigation Thursday while other forestry workers continued efforts to reduce the dangers of smoke.
"We have two water buffaloes (large water tanks), two engines and the Bulloch County Volunteer firefighters had an engine" wetting down areas "trying to knock the smoke down."
Walker said the area burned was "mostly planted pines that had not been burned in years."
Lamb said at least three other traffic accidents were the result of smoky and foggy conditions Thursday morning.
Georgia State Patrol Sgt. Ben Forehand said one man was injured after getting out of his vehicle to check on occupants of another car he had struck from behind due to the limited sight.
While Freddie Lee Bates, 52, of Hinesville was standing beside the car he struck, a third vehicle struck his car from behind, then struck him as he stood, Forehand said.
Fortunately, Bates was not seriously injured and was not transported, he said.
When asked if charges would be filed in any of the accidents, Forehand said he attributed the cause of the accidents to the atmospheric conditions.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at 912-489-9414.