Recent DUI Crash Is Costly For City, County PDF Print E-mail
News - Local News
Monday, 08 January 2018 10:59
Repairing damages incurred to the Chattooga County Registrar's building and fixtures outside the courthouse might get costly, according to local officials.
Michael Joe Womack, 35, of Trion, is accused of not only DUI, but also veering off Commerce Street suddenly and crashing into multiple objects in front of the courthouse.
"He was going well over 80," witness Amber Tapp said. 
Amber and her husband, David, first noticed Womack around the Save-A-Lot shopping center on Highway 27. 
"I thought it was the police coming up behind us," Mrs. Tapp said.
Instead, it was an allegedly stolen green 1996 Chevrolet S-10 driven by Womack. Multiple witnesses said Womack drove it fast, erratically and passed other vehicles in the turning lane at times.
"I topped the hill at McDonald's and there was no sign of him," Tapp said.
Just before reaching the courthouse, Womack came close to striking another motorist. Womack slammed on the brakes, yanked the steering wheel toward the sidewalk and collided into a power pole.
"[Womack] left approximately 150 feet of skid marks [on Commerce Street] and then traveled an additional 50 feet before coming to a stop," Officer Labron Jackson reported.
When Womack struck the power pole, it completely yanked it out of the ground. The front of Womack's truck pushed the pole into the black iron fence on the south side of the courthouse. 
As the momentum of the truck continued, it knocked over additional fencing and signs. The truck and power pole came to a final rest as they collided into the registrar's office.
The impact into that was so great that it sent shards of glass and metal flying throughout the office. A chair sitting next to the window was knocked across the room. Another piece of metal from the fence impaled itself into the side of a wooden conference desk.
"We are lucky it did not happen during the day," County Commissioner Jason Winters said.
The metal lodged into the conference table could have struck someone. That's not counting the shards of glass that went flying from one wall to the other.
After the truck slammed into the building, Womack was trapped inside the vehicle. Summerville Firemen had to use Jaws of Life equipment. Medics stood inside the registrar's office with a stretcher as firefighters pulled Womack out of the driver's side door. He was immediately rushed to Floyd Medical Center for treatment.
County Public Works Director Joe Reed called in Wayne Pace Construction to cover the windows with plywood and secure the building.
"We will try to file on his insurance. Of course we have already notified our insurance as well," Commissioner Winters said.
The cost to repair the building, fence and power pole is unknown.
"They might have to do some bracing on the front of the registrar's office," Winters said.
He guessed that if the structure was OK, then the cost to repair the registrar's office might run between $10,000-$15,000. 
"We have no clue on how much it will cost to repair the railing at the courthouse," Winters said. 
The City of Summerville will also file a claim against Womack's insurance as well. One of the city's snowflake Christmas lights was on the pole Womack struck. 
"To replace one it would be $1,200," Summerville City Manager Tony Carroll said. "We will turn it in on the driver's insurance."
Not only does Womack face paying restitution to the city and county, but also to Leonardo Paradesanaya, of Walker Street. Womack allegedly stole the truck earlier in the day.
"While on scene it was learned that the vehicle did not have keys in the ignition but it could be started without a key," Deputy Corey Fielding reported.
The vehicle was valued at $2,000, according to an incident report.
Womack was charged with theft by taking, DUI, driving too fast for conditions, passing in a no passing zone, a seat belt violation and failure to maintain a single lane, according to reports.

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