Posted: Wednesday, March 6th 2013 at 4:00pm
Habersham patrol car damaged in Operation Thunder wreck
By Rob Moore Editor
This photograph shows the damage to the Habersham County Sheriff's Office HEAT unit involved in Operation Thunder in Richmond County on March 1.
UNDATED – A Richmond County deputy was injured and patrol cars from Habersham County and Richmond County were heavily damaged in a collision that occurred during Operation Thunder Friday night.
The wreck occurred on Interstate 20 westbound at Jimmie Dyess Parkway around 7:35 p.m.
The Habersham County Sheriff’s Office HEAT unit driven by Deputy Bennie Loudermilk was one of two there as part of the specialized enforcement campaign.
“Bennie saw him coming and pulled to the right,” said Sheriff Joey Terrell.
The Richmond County unit struck Loudermilk’s Dodge Charger in the left rear quarter panel, also damaging the left rear wheel.
“It bent the wheel,” Terrell said. “It had to be hauled back. It’s reparable.”
“The human element is always there,” Terrell said. “It’s going to happen. It’s a prime example of why we all need to be safe when we drive.”
“No one was hurt seriously, and that’s what important,” Terrell said. “Cars can be repaired or replaced.”
Terrell said the Richmond County deputy was knocked unconscious and had a wrist injury.
“Bennie wasn’t hurt,” Terrell said. “He was just sore for a couple of days.”
In accordance with county policy, Loudermilk underwent a mandatory drug screen following the collision. He has returned to duty in a spare patrol car.
Terrell said the wreck won’t cost Habersham County taxpayers anything.
“We won’t have a deductible,” Terrell said. “It wasn’t our fault.”
Last week was the two-member Habersham traffic enforcement unit’s second trip to the Augusta area as part of Operation Thunder, and the unit is scheduled to go again before the 90-day enforcement campaign is over.
“They cover all the costs of our guys going down there,” Terrell said.
The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office partnered with the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety in an attempt to make that county’s roads safer. Last year, 44 people died on Richmond County roads – an increase of more than 130 percent from 2011.
The 90-day enforcement effort, which began Feb. 14, not only is focusing on driving under the influence, but also reckless drivers, those driving without insurance, and aggressive drivers.
Operation Thunder includes an educational component as well as an enforcement component.
“You’re driving a weapon, you really are,” Richmond County Sheriff's Lt. Lewis Blanchard told WJBF. “It’s a large, heavy machine, and it’s your responsibility to make sure you’re paying attention all the time.”
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