A fatal accident involving a tractor-trailer in Screven County Wednesday afternoon took the life of a man riding a wheelchair from Augusta to Savannah to raise awareness for people with disabilities.
Frank Barham of Atlanta, was touring and making musical performances to help provide wheelchairs to people who cannot afford one, according to Internet website www.wheel2live.net.
Margret Kargbo of Atlanta, a passenger in a van accompanying Barham, was also fatally injured in the crash. The driver of the van, Carrie B. Johnson of Villa Rica, was injured and airlifted to the Doctors Hospital of Augusta, according to Georgia State Patrol reports.
Beginning with the deaths of five Georgia Southern nursing students on April 22, accidents involving tractor-trailers have resulted in 12 fatalities on South Georgia roadways in the past month.
Around 4 p.m. Wednesday, a loaded gas tanker tractor-trailer traveling south on Hwy. 21 struck the rear of the slow moving passenger van traveling in the same lane.
The van was acting as an escort vehicle for Barham, who was traveling in front of the van, reports stated.
After being slammed by the semi, the van crashed into Barham’s wheelchair, then veered across the left lane and caught fire. The semi ran over Barham, according to GSP Sgt. Chris Lacienski. Both Barham, 59, and Kargbo, 36, were killed.
Johnson, 34, was pulled from the van before it became fully engulfed in flames. The semi driver, Kenneth W. Richards of North Augusta, S.C., was not injured.
The investigation continues, and reports were incomplete Thursday. Lacienski said the GSP Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team is handling the investigation.
While no cause for the crash is known at this point in the investigation, reports indicate the “van was not equipped with any additional warning lights and only had several hand written poster boards affixed to the rear of the vehicle.”
Barham was scheduled for a concert on Saturday in Savannah at Trinity United Methodist Church, The concert was canceled, according to savannahnow.com.
Barham was traveling 302 miles from Augusta to Savannah in recognition of 25th anniversary of the American Disabilities Act, according to his website.
“Wheel2Live is one man’s journey to share good music and raise funds for those needing wheelchairs while highlighting the public on the benefits of the Americans with Disabilities Act during its 25th national anniversary,” the site reads.
Along the route, Barham performed music from his newly released CD, Levitating, with the band Brazilian Fusion. He began the tour May 11.
Barham’s interest in helping others stemmed from his own experiences. When he was younger, he attended a party where “he helped throw his father in a swimming pool and his father floated up paralyzed,” the site reads. “Frank's subsequent responses propelled him on a downward spiral that led to his own accident and spinal injury.”
Lacienski said further details will be released when the investigation continues and reports are completed.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.