UPDATE: Apison Tornado Memorial damaged in DUI incident
An Apison Tornado Memorial was severely damaged by an alleged drunk driver early Tuesday morning.
UPDATE: A memorial honoring the victims of a deadly tornado in Apison is now nothing more than a pile of rubble.
Hamilton County deputies say Frankie Parsons and Jesse Morris crashed into the memorial on East Brainerd Road just after midnight on Tuesday.
According to investigators, both men were drunk, and one of them had a stolen gun.
Five years ago, the community came up with $25,000 to build the monument. Now, they might need help raising that money again in order to keep the 15 victims' memories alive.
"I've got a lot of friends and relatives that died during the tornado, and their names are on there," said Apison resident Bill Hullander.
The names of Hullander's family and friends are now on the ground, in dozens of broken pieces.
Once standing 6 feet tall, the monument honored the 15 people who lost their lives when a tornado hit on April 27, 2011.
On Tuesday, just after midnight, deputies say a drunk driver slammed into it.
"Some of the pieces were as far as 100 feet away, so I knew it was hit hard," Hullander said.
Deputies arrested Jesse Morris and Frankie Parsons, who was behind the wheel.
News of the toppled monument spread quickly. Many people stopped by to see the damage.
"I came out here today because someone said the monument was run over," said Doug Walter, who helped rebuild several homes after the tornado.
He said it's heartbreaking seeing the monument now look like this.
"It'll have to be a whole new rock," Walter said. "There's no way to put this back together."
And it won't be cheap to replace. The monument cost $25,000. It was funded solely by donations.
"Right now, we're just waiting to see if there was possibly insurance on the car," Hullander explained.
If not, the community will have to raise money a second time, coming together, just like they did in 2011.
"I've already got some ideas of some things we might do to make it a little bit better," said Hullander. "We, as a community, will pull together and get (the monument) put back."
If you'd like to help re-build the monument or make a donation, contact Bill Hullander at (423) 595-7070.
PREVIOUS STORY: An Apison Tornado Memorial was severely damaged by an alleged drunk driver early Tuesday morning.
Hamilton County Sheriff's Office says, around 12:15 a.m. a silver Acura RS6, driven by Frankie Parsons, crashed into the memorial and flagpole causing significant damage located at 10200 E Brainerd Road.
When deputies arrived, they found Parsons along with Jessie Morris complaining of painful breathing. HCEMS was called to render medical aid, but both parties refused transport to the hospital.
A further investigation revealed that the vehicle in question matched the description of a vehicle involved in a prior accident earlier in the night in Catoosa County, Georgia, where the driver allegedly fled the scene after destroying a fence and driving through private property.
Deputies said they smelled a strong odor of alcohol and a sobriety test was performed. The driver, Parson, failed the test and was taken into custody for DUI. Jessie Morris was arrested for possession of a firearm while intoxicated. Marijuana was also found in possession of Morris. The firearm is suspected to be stolen.
Both Parsons and Morris were taken into custody and transported to the Hamilton County Jail. More charges could be pending depending on the outcome of the investigation.