Two people were killed and three others were critically injured in an accident in Lithia Springs Saturday night.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office was in active pursuit of a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed on Thornton Road southbound from Interstate 20, according to the Georgia State Patrol.
The driver failed to yield to the emergency equipment of the deputy, ran a red light at Thornton Road and Riverside Parkway and struck the side of a tractor trailer that was traveling through the intersection, according to the GSP. The crash happened at about 7:45 p.m. Saturday.
The driver of the vehicle, 30-year-old Billy Frazier, of Atlanta, and the front passenger, 10-year-old Quemontae Frazier, died in the collision, GSP Cpl. John Trawick said. Three juveniles in the backseat — 6-year-old Chasten Frazier, 5-year-old Promise Frazier and 3-year-old Raven Burston — were taken to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite with critical injuries.
Douglas County Sheriff’s Sgt. Jesse Hambrick said at a Tuesday press conference that a veteran deputy saw a gray 2006 Infiniti M35 traveling south on Thornton Road in the area of Westfork Boulevard. The deputy clocked the Infiniti doing 69 mph in a 45 mph zone and attempted a traffic stop at QuikTrip at Thornton and Maxham roads.
Hambrick said as the deputy stopped to get out of his patrol car, Frazier sped off southbound on Thornton Road initiating a pursuit.
“Based on the driver’s reckless driving and the fact that the deputy was able to see the driver as the only occupant of the vehicle, the pursuit was allowed to continue for approximately 3 miles,” Hambrick said.
Hambrick said during the chase, Frazier weaved in and out of traffic “in an aggressive manner exceeding the speed limit and putting the public at risk.”
Once the Infiniti crossed over I-20, the vehicle lost a rear wheel and tire. Based on those facts, the deputy was authorized to utilize a P.I.T. maneuver to end the pursuit.
But Hambrick said before the deputy was able to utilize the P.I.T. maneuver, the accident had occurred. The entire chase lasted 2 minutes and 40 seconds.
“The vehicle traveled underneath the semi tractor-trailer until it came to rest on the other side and caught fire,” Hambrick said. “It was then that pursuing deputies realized that the vehicle was also occupied by four children under the age of 16.”
Hambrick said that “without regard for their own safety, deputies were able to remove the remaining children from the burning vehicle as well as extinguish the fire.”
He said that during the initial traffic stop, “the video very clearly shows that when the deputy pulled in behind the vehicle in the QuikTrip parking lot, the only occupant that could be seen at that time was the driver.”
When asked if the deputy had the seen children in the car at any point whether the chase would have taken place, Hambrick said it likely would not have.
“I can say in this particular incident, had the deputy known that there were three children in this car and the violations were for speeding and reckless driving, we would have very likely terminated the pursuit and not continued it,” he said”
Hambrick said the command staff at DCSO had conducted a chase review and all of the command staff agreed the chase was within policy.
“We without a doubt know that it was within policy,” he said.
Hambrick said during the crash “the car literally went underneath the trailer and it came out on the other side. It was very, very bad accident.”
Hambrick said of the emotional state of the deputy that “he’s doing well and dealing with this the best he can.”
Hambrick praised the two deputies on the scene who helped get the children out of the burning car.
“It’s something that you don’t ever want to be a part of,” Hambrick said. “Again, I’m very proud of the fact that this went from a chase to saving lives. The deputies did not hesitate. They immediately went in, began grabbing those kids out of a burning car, then returned to be able to extinguish the fire in the car, then provide the safety and security necessary for EMS and those involved to get to these children and provide them the medical attention that they needed. We’re very proud of how they responded to this.”
Hambrick that as of Tuesday morning the DCSO was researching the relationship between Frazier and the children in the car with him.
Hambrick said Frazier was driving on a suspended license, was on active probation in Georgia, and was in possession of stolen handgun. Hambrick said Frazier also possessed with the intent to distribute a large quantity of prescription medications, Ecstasy, cocaine and crack cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana.
He said the deputy wasn’t aware of Frazier’s criminal history during the chase — only that Frazier was speeding, driving recklessly and putting the public at risk with his driving.
The GSP Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team is conducting a follow-up investigation.