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‘Angels’ helped in freak, ‘Bermuda Triangle’ fatality

By Walter Geiger The short section of I-75 in Lamar County named the Bermuda Triangle by law enforcement officers due to the plethora of strange things that have occurred there claimed another life July 14. Brian Edward Durst, 53, was in the southbound emergency lane near mile marker 198 working on his vehicle when a wheel came off a passing trailer, struck him and nearly severed his leg. Durst, an Alpharetta banker, remained conscious for some 30 minutes waiting on an ambulance. A lifeflight chopper was summoned for him but he coded out once an ambulance arrived. He was taken by ambulance to an area hospital then later flown to an Atlanta trauma center where he died. An eyewitness to the incident described a horrific scene. Tammy Pope of Williamson was southbound on I-75 with her daughter Bethany Almand, preparing to exit on High Falls Road and watched the events unfold in her rear view mirror. '(Durst) was well off the road. I was watching him and thinking, ‘˜I hope he doesn’t get out in the road’. Then I saw a black blur and the tire hit him and took him down. I was watching in the rear view mirror and he tried to stand up but fell back down,’ Pope said. Bethany, meanwhile, leapt from her mother’s car before it came to a full stop and ran down the shoulder of the road in her high heels. The 19-year-old good samaritan, a student at Gordon State College, comforted Durst until first responders got there. ’She shared her ice water with him, wiped his face, talked to him and patted his back until help arrived,’ her mom said. Bethany was very upset to learn Durst had died and she and her mother attended his funeral mass in Birmingham Saturday. ‘I hope this helps with her closure,’ her mother added. Tammy joined her daughter with the victim on the side of the busy interstate. ’He didn’t speak for quite some time. He finally called out his wife’s name and number and I called her. She was hysterical and finally had to have her brotherin- law call me back. He was able to tell us his wallet and phone were in the glove compartment,’ Tammy said. Durst’s widow, Ginny, described Pope as an angel in media interviews. Her husband worked with BB&T as the account executive manager of their marine and RV division. He referred to his wife of 23 years as his ‘life’. A Lamar deputy, Sgt. Brett Newman, was turning around in a law enforcement median cut through and ‘came roaring up almost immediately,’ according to Pope. First responders got there within a reasonable time but those at the scene questioned the response time of the ambulance. ’It seemed like it took a long time for the ambulance to get there but it always does in a situation like that so I’m not sure how long it was. I do know my daughter flipped her car just off the next exit at Unionville Road a few weeks ago and it took the ambulance 45 minutes to get there that time,’ Tammy Pope said. She was also surprised at the lack of concern shown by passing motorists. ’I was honestly surprised that no one else stopped to help. If that was my husband or daddy laying there, I would like to know someone stopped to care for them,’ Tammy added. As it turns out, Sgt. Newman’s dash cam helped LCSO and GSP investigators identify the trailer the tire came off of. ’The in-car cameras in our units record all the time. We went into his hard drive to recreate the time and then pulled the video off to create the still image. We don’t think the driver ever knew the tire came off,’ sheriff Brad White said. After first focusing on an SUV hauling a boat trailer, the investigation finally identified a dark colored, four door dually truck hauling an empty lowboy or marine type trailer with three tires on each side. The driver of the dually has not been found.

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