‘No one answered the phone:’ Witness of Hwy 17 crash says it was difficult to reach 911

Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 6:01 PM EST
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CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - A woman who says she stopped to help a driver who died after a crash in Chatham County is talking exclusively with WTOC.

That crash happened Wednesday evening around 6:30 p.m. on Ogeechee Road at Chief O.F. Love Road.

Stephanie Lange says she was driving northbound on Ogeechee Road when she came across the crash.

She says people tried desperately to help free the SUV driver.

“The car, like, exploded, and everybody backed away and it started to catch more fire,” said Lange.

Lange says the SUV was already billowing with smoke when she and others pulled over to help the driver.

Lange didn’t want to go on camera but says once the group realized the tow truck operator didn’t have a fire extinguisher, they used shovels to break through the SUV’s windows but it was too late.

“It kept on exploding and it would do a big cloud of smoke, or a big fireball and it would catch more on fire,” said Lange

Preliminary info from Georgia State Patrol says the tow truck was traveling north on Ogeechee Road making a U-turn to travel south.

The SUV, a gold GMC Yukon, also traveling north, was unable to stop and struck the tow truck.

Its driver, 32-year-old Adam Daughtry, was pronounced dead on scene.

Lange says it was difficult to get ahold of 911.

“When I called 911, no one answered the phone. It was a good 20, 30 seconds. Then, I hung up. I called 911 back again. And it took another 20 seconds to answer the phone and it was Ft. Stewart 911.”

She says the Ft. Stewart operator transferred her to a Chatham County call center.

“I’m screaming like, hurry up, this car’s about to blow up. Hurry,” said Lange.

We took her concerns to Chatham County Commissioner Aaron Whitely.

He says this isn’t the first time he’s heard about problems contacting 911 and the county is working to overcome staffing shortages at times of high call volume.

“The challenge we have with 911 is you can’t just hire somebody in the 911 center and throw them on the phone. There’s an extensive training process they have to go through that can be at least 6 months along. When you’re hiring someone, there’s going to be a minute before they’re actually operational,” said District 6 Commissioner Whitely.

Commissioner Whitley also voiced concerns over Ogeechee Road after a string of recent crashes.

The latest GDOT traffic count shows an average 25,000 cars drive on the stretch of Ogeechee Road where this crash happened daily.

Ogeechee road is a GDOT operated highway, not county-owned.

“One thing it just makes me think about is, are there things that we can do as a Board of Commissioners to actually help it? Considering that this is happening in my district, these are my neighbors who are often times involved in these accidents,” said Whitely

And for Lange, the nightmare of Wednesday’s crash remains.

“I’m traumatized. And, like, nobody – like I can’t sleep at night to know that I feel like I tried to help somebody, and other bystanders tried to help and we couldn’t save his life or save the dog’s life. Yeah, it eats you alive.”

Back in December, GDOT provided funding for a study along the Ogeechee Road corridor between the Ogeechee River and I-516.

We also reached out to the Chatham County 911 call center and are waiting to hear back.