The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Several people were injured – one critically – in a five-vehicle pileup that shut down Ponce de Leon Avenue for much of Thursday’s morning commute.
Atlanta police on the scene told the AJC that the wreck near Clifton Road happened just after 7 a.m. when the driver of an eastbound Nissan Altima crossed the center line and struck a Dodge Caravan taxi head-on.
Three other vehicles were then hit by either the taxi or the Nissan.
The wreck happened just behind Shawn Grady, a former Holly Springs volunteer firefighter who now installs playgrounds.
“I was headed to a job and I heard a noise, and I hit the brakes,” Grady said. “I looked in the rear-view mirror and I just threw it in reverse.”
Grady said he saw flames coming from the front of the Nissan and ran to assist the driver.
“When I got to the car, the occupant’s head was pinned between the ‘A' (front) pillar and the headrest, and his right arm was up over the steering wheel,” Grady said. “I thought he was deceased, then he made a moan.”
Grady said he took his shirt off, and began beating the fire down and trying to smother the flames.
“That wasn’t working, and my partners came and they were helping me beat it out, and they ran and got water,” he said.
“Once I heard him moan the first time, I didn’t care anymore,” Grady said. “I was like, whatever it takes to not have this gentleman burn to death.”
Grady said he and other bystanders tried to keep the badly injured driver alert until paramedics arrived.
Once medical personnel arrived, Grady said he “texted my wife and told her, ‘just pray.'”
Tiffany Grantham said she narrowly avoided being struck by the Nissan.
“I saw him in my rear-view mirror, coming up behind me, and he went to pass me,” she said.
“With the lanes being so narrow, it looks like he went too far and veered into oncoming traffic and hit them head-on and his car started flipping,” Grantham said. “It looked like it was going to land on top of mine, and I just swerved.”
In a follow-up email Thursday afternoon, Atlanta police spokeswoman Officer Kim Y. Jones said Atlanta Fire Rescue units extricated the Nissan’s driver. The motorist, whose identity was not disclosed, sustained severe injuries including blunt force trauma and internal injuries and head injuries, Jones said.
Police on the scene said the driver was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital in critical condition, and people in the other vehicles went to Grady with moderate to severe injuries.
Jones said the taxi driver had a broken femur and other injuries, while a third driver complained of injuries that were not life-threatening and also was taken to the hospital. No names were released.
“No charges have been filed at this time, and the Atlanta Police Traffic Investigation Unit is actively investigating this accident,” Jones said.