Local News

May 22, 2014

One hospitalized after collision with Varnell police car

— A two-vehicle wreck involving a Varnell police officer Wednesday evening resulted in one man being airlifted to Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga.

The wreck happened in front of North Whitfield Middle School on Cleveland Highway and involved a Varnell patrol car driven by an officer identified by officials as Patrick Hayes and a Jeep Cherokee, according to the Georgia State Patrol (GSP) public information office. The driver of the Cherokee, David Gambrell, was not wearing his seat belt and was ejected from the vehicle. No further information was available late Thursday.

Varnell Police Chief Lyle Grant said both vehicles were traveling “at low rate of speed” and collided when the officer tried to make a turn. He referred all other questions to the GSP, which is investigating.

Varnell Mayor Anthony Hulsey, who is a GSP trooper, said he did not know the details of the accident and was waiting on a report from the GSP. Mayor Pro Tem Jan Pourquoi also said he did not know the details of the accident but had gone to City Hall Thursday to show his support for the department.

This is the second accident involving the Varnell Police Department in recent years.

Former Varnell police officer James Smith pleaded guilty in July 2013 to first degree vehicular homicide and reckless driving. Smith was driving his patrol car at 104 mph on Cleveland Highway when he collided with a Dodge Neon driven by 70-year-old Leon Thurman, killing Thurman.

Smith was sentenced to 10 years of probation, a $2,500 fine, 300 hours of community service and a lifetime ban on working in law enforcement.

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