GSP investigates Alapaha tragedy -, Albany News, Weather, Sports

GSP investigates Alapaha tragedy

November 13, 2006

Alapaha - People in the small town of Alapaha are still asking "why?"  Why did an annual community celebration end in tragedy with three members of a Berrien County killed and three more injured?

Georgia State Troopers are asking how, too.  How did an 18 wheeler plow into the family's mule-drawn wagon.  The Georgia State Patrol Special Collision Reconstruction Team is investigating a crash that killed three members of a prominent Berrien County family and critically injured another.

Many people in Berrien County are still in shock.  "It's just sad. When the news got back to Alapaha about this tragedy, everyone was just really sad," said Jerry Brogdon, Berrien County Sheriff.

Alapaha resident Kaye Bruner-Barker adds, "Total shock. It's a real good family. I grieve for the family and I really pray for them."

Saturday afternoon, the Joyce family was heading home on Highway 520 from the 22nd Annual Alapaha Station Celebration, where they had taken their mule-drawn wagon.

They were hit by a tractor trailer driven by 54-year-old Charles Lott.  "The tractor trailer struck the wagon in the rear, both of them traveling into the north ditch and resting," says Senior Trooper Ward Holten.

Forty-five-year old Franklin Joyce and five year old Andrew Joyce were pronounced dead at the scene. Seventy-five year old John Joyce died after being transported to Tift Regional Hospital.

Twenty-four-year old Kimberly Joyce remains in critical condition at a hospital in Macon. The condition of the two other riders, three-year-old Abigail Joyce and 49-year-old Lynda Harnage are unknown.

The accident that happened here is one that residents will never forget. To honor their fallen friends, they hope to have a memorial at next year's celebration.  "We're going to get with the Alapaha Station Celebration Committee. We're going to get with them and I'm sure there will be things done in this community to honor the Joyce family," Brogdon says.

The SCRT team is still investigating why the truck hit the wagon, and they have not yet filed charges against the driver.