GROVETOWN, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Two law enforcement officers died in a wreck west of Augusta on an already tragic day for police as they buried one of their own.
The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office said the officers were from Fulton County.
The agency said the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office Dodge Charger, occupied by two deputies, struck the rear of a tractor-trailer that was stopped for traffic in the left eastbound lane of Interstate 20 just after 11:10 a.m.
The crash at Lewiston Road closed all lanes of eastbound I-20. Although traffic was moving again by 3 p.m. at that location, another fatal crash 10 miles to the west led to a traffic diversion at mile marker 175. That crash also happened on the eastbound side of I-20 and involved nine vehicles.
A reconstruction team and motor carrier compliance officials were assisting with the investigation.
The names of the officers weren’t released pending notification of next of kin.
“Please keep the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office family and the family members of all involved in your thoughts and prayers,” the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
The incident came on the same day as a memorial service in Augusta for Richmond County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Charles Norton. Norton died of complications from COVID-19, becoming the agency’s first line-of-duty coronavirus casualty.
The locally-based J.D. Paugh Foundation said the Fulton County officers had come to the CSRA for Norton’s memorial service. The foundation was established in honor of a fallen Richmond County deputy.
The Lewiston Road location was the site of a maintenance project scheduled for today, according to the Georgia Department of Transportation. The roadwork was expected to have a minor impact, closing the right lane. It was unclear whether the crash was related to the project.
Even before today’s wrecks, I-20 had been treacherous recently:
- The crash that killed the officers was about 16 miles east of where a tow truck driver was killed in a hit-and-run crash less than two weeks ago. On Sept. 17, Jason Willis was struck by a vehicle as he was loading up another vehicle on I-20 at Cobbham Road in McDuffie County. It happened as torrential rain soaked the region.
- On Monday night, a tractor-trailer caught fire near the Grovetown exit ramp on westbound Interstate 20, causing traffic problems.
- Hours earlier, all lanes of eastbound I-20 were closed in South Carolina a few miles north of North Augusta. A truck accident before 6 a.m. Monday led to the closure near Bettis Academy Road, and only one lane was open for most of the rest of the day.