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Grady County Volunteer Fire Department firefighters were dispatched last week to assist law enforcement in the search for a possible missing person, and they utilized a new tool in their tool chest.
Authorities were dispatched to the report of an alleged impaired driver who had crashed into a tree but proceeded on her way on Tuesday, July 7, at approximately 11 p.m.
A 2017 Jeep Patriot driven by a 33-year-old Mitchell County woman was stopped by Cairo Police on U.S. Highway 84, west of Georgia Highway 112. Lawmen stopped the vehicle after it had been seen traveling out of a wooded area east of Highway 112 and back onto U.S. 84.
Subsequent investigation by the Georgia State Patrol indicates that the Jeep left the roadway on the east side of Highway 112 in the curve approaching the intersection with U.S. 84 and continued straight into a wooded area, struck a tree, overturned and ended upright before proceeding off road for a distance before turning back west onto U.S. 84.
Chief Keith Moye of the Cairo station of the Grady V.F.D. said that damage to the passenger side of the vehicle’s windshield caused authorities to believe a passenger may have been in the vehicle at the time of the accident.
After a physical inspection on foot by volunteer firefighters and finding nothing, Chief Moye requested assistance from the Grady County Lake Authority’s executive director, Mike Binion, who piloted the authority’s newly purchased drone over the area to search for a possible ejected passenger using the infrared camera on the drone.
According to Chief Moye, the drone was airborne for approximately 30 minutes when the search was called off with no passenger being found.
Authorities say that the driver of the vehicle could not tell them if anyone else had been with her at the time of the accident.
The driver was transported to Archbold Memorial Hospital for treatment, according to the GSP. Trooper Steven Kornegay investigated the accident.
Chief Moye, who also is the current chairman of the Grady County Commission, said, “We knew that the drone would be beneficial not only at the lake, but also with search and rescue operations. We just didn’t know we would be putting it in service this quickly. It is a valuable resource to have available to the county.”
The drone was purchased last month from LandMark Spatial Solutions LLC at a cost of $4,364.94. The purchase price was funded from proceeds from the sale of daily fishing passes at Tired Creek Lake. The lake authority recommended the purchase to the county commission to utilize the drone in mapping out the precise location of trouble spots in the lake where evasive grasses need to be sprayed. The new drone was delivered the first week of July and Binion and V.F.D. member Brock Ponder are scheduled to be fully trained on the operation of the new equipment in the coming weeks.
Charges in the July 7 incident are pending, according to the Georgia State Patrol.