Driver dies after deer bursts through pickup's windshield
RINGGOLD, CATOOSA COUNTY (WRCB)-- Barry Sheram considers his friend Jimmy Wayne Bridges a fellow country boy, who knew all too well the speed limits and deer warnings on Catoosa County's Three Notch Road.
"It was just a freak accident," he says. "I couldn't believe it--doesn't make sense. I've dodged em myself and I've hit em over the years."
So he wonders how Bridges could have dodged the six-point-buck who came at his truck as he was driving to work about 7:45 Wednesday morning.
"It jumped," Sheram says. "It went way up! Caught the windshield!
"There was no impact between the deer and front end of the vehicle," says Sgt. Shan Burnette of the Georgia State Patrol.
Kellie Wright spent 25 minutes caught in the traffic jam that formed behind Bridges truck after the impact.
"The window busted out the front and the back," she says.
The deer had gone all the way through the pickup's cab, landing in the truck bed. Dead.
Bridges had buckled up, but the pickup's airbag never deployed, the GSP report states.
Bridges, 61, died of massive trauma, in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.
"There was no way he could have anticipated," Sheram says.
Several neighbors tell Eyewitness News that the dangers for a deadly incident such as this have been building for years. Deer have lost habitat as farmland gives way to subdivisions and larger estate homes.
"Jimmy and I live five miles away, and we have deer in our yards," Sheram says. "In our neighbors' gardens."
"We're seeing even more of it with the seasons' change," Sgt. Burnette says. "Hunting season may be over, but temperature changes can be just as disruptive to their migration patterns."
In short, deer spook easily.
"To be ready to dodge them in half-a-second? That's your typical time to react," Sgt. Burnette says. "Sometimes you can't."
In fact, Sgt. Burnette tells Channel 3, you may be more likely to be hurt or killed by trying to avoid the deer than by hitting it.
"It may be an over-reaction trying to brake, or an over-reaction trying to steer," he says. "Either way, it's easy to lose control and strike another object or roll your vehicle."
Kellie Wright grew up with deer nearby. She and her neighbors co-exist with them, in a subdivision less than an quarter mile from Bridges' deadly crash.
"We basically go slower than the speed limit," she says. "And ,you know, generally go slower."
Sgt. Burnette says the Georgia State Patrol trains its troopers to follow the 12-Second-Rule.
"Look seconds down the roadway," he says. "If you can look that far down the road, and pay attention to what's going or coming, you can avoid a lot of the difficulties that lead to collisions."
But Sheram wonders whether his friend's death was avoidable, given that deer, by nature, are unpredictable.
"Extend the deer hunting season," he asks rhetorically. "Thin the population? I don't know."
Jimmy Wayne Bridges was a carpenter with L & W Properties. A Vietnam veteran. Father of four, grandfather to seven, and great-grandfather to two.
His family will receive friends from 5-9 P.M. Friday at Wilson Funeral Home, Wallis-Stewart Chapel in Ringgold.
Graveside services will be at noon Saturday at Woodstation Cemetery.