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"Wheel2Live" charity ride through GA ends tragically

Published: May. 21, 2015 at 10:27 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 20, 2015 at 11:11 PM EDT
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SCREVEN CO., GA (WTOC) - What was supposed to be the end stretch of an amazing journey for one Atlanta musician, turned into a tragic end on one of our highways.

Frank Barham set out from Atlanta in his wheelchair, escorted by Margret Kargbo and Carrie Johnson following in a van.

The stretch of Georgia Highway 21 in southern Screven County was closed for hours Wednesday afternoon and evening after a fully loaded tanker truck ran into the back of the slowly moving van, triggering a deadly chain reaction.

Barham began his "Wheel to Live" journey on May 11. He wanted to help others with disabilities. Screven County Sheriff Mike Kile said he met Barham hours before the crash.

"I saw him earlier in the day just starting south on 21, and you just feel so sorry for the families for the loss they've incurred, and somebody doing something so good, to have such a tragic ending that way is terrible," Kile said.

Gene Brooks, a Savannah lawyer and Barham's friend from college, not knowing his friend was dead, sent out an email reminding the Hostess City of the concert and wheelchair giveaway he and Barham planned for this weekend.

"He was looking forward to coming to Savannah." Brooks said. "He kept telling me that disabilities could only be in your head, and that he was going to keep going, and that's certainly what he wanted to do down here."

Brooks said Barham had gotten sick before the journey and almost didn't do it, but recovered and began on what Brooks believes was Barham's pilgrimage.

"He was very determined,” Brooks said. “He was a strong guy, but he made a lot of ripples in life that he didn't feel were very good, so this was his way of making some good ripples."

But through tears and laughter, Brooks remembers his friend who certainly rippled his life, and though Barham didn't reach his destination, he touched so many on his journey.

"There were some people who gave him a lot of encouragement along the way, and he met some very kind people," Brooks said.

"He was a beautiful mix of someone that was sweet and that was strong at the same time," said Adriana Barham, Frank's wife. "I know this is a horrible disaster, its terrible, but in a positive way he died doing what he wanted to do."


With Barham and Kargbo dying on Hwy. 21, that makes 12 people killed on our Coastal Empire highways in the last month: 10 on I-16 and two on Hwy 21.

The van driver, Carrie Johnson, was flown to the Burn Center in Augusta. The tanker driver was not injured.

Georgia State Patrol continues to investigate.

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