Eyewitness News at 6, 2-7-13

7:17 PM, Feb 7, 2013   |    comments
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I-16 today... One day after a chain reaction crash...killed four people...and injured nine more.

A vastly different scene from yesterday...when one witness described the destruction from the 27 car accident... Saying it looked like a war zone...

Hello, everyone. I'm Frank Malloy.

And I'm Leah Johnson.

So far.... there's no definitive answer...about what caused yesterday's pileup that resulted in a tanker explosion... and killed four people.

But law enforcement... the Georgia Department of Transportation... and people in the area...all say thick fog ...or smoke...or both....made it difficult to see.

Tom George traveled to Montrose this morning... where he spent time with someone who lives near Interstate 16..... the site of that accident.

That's right ... The day before the accident, Stacy Cook-Cooper's yard caught on fire after someone's controlled burn spread onto her property.

She says the blinding smoke could have made a bad situation.....worse for drivers.

< It would have caught everything we had and it would have burned up my trailer and everything else in yard.>

Stacy Cook-Cooper says she's lucky a controlled burn that spread to her property didn't reach her house ... But it did burn her front yard Tuesday.

< And so that night I just kind of stayed up all night long and didn't go to bed because I was afraid that it would burn up my house and I've got two kids.>

By Wednesday morning, her whole neighborhood was clouded by smoke...

< It was like driving through a gallon of milk .. It was so thick that you couldn't see off the front of your car. If I didn't know where my driveway was in my yard, I would've ended up in the pine trees myself...>

Cooper's thinks the smoke from the fire could have affected other motorists yesterday in the fatal accidents ... Her house is less than a mile from I-16.

< Now I spoke with Sgt. Ken DeLoach of the Georgia State Patrol at he did confirm to me that eventually spread to Cooper's yard is being looked at as a possible cause of the visibility issues that may have contributed to the accident here on I-16. >

Laurens Fire Chief Don Bryant says the person who started the fire did have a burn permit.

< He had did the things that he should have done before he started the fire and for some reason whether something fell across the fire break or wind blew a spark across the fire break, I don't know.>

But no matter the cause, Cooper says people need to be more careful.

< You should be aware of what you're burning, you know because there's houses popping up everywhere , and I mean I live in a double wide, so it can up really quick! >

In Montrose, Tom George, 13WMAZ Eyewitness News.



Many of you woke up...to a strong smoke smell again this morning.

Ben... The rain has done a lot to douse those though.

Thanks Ben.

In our 13WMAZ Web Poll today... We asked... Do you think most people drive slower when visibility is poor?

40 percent of you say yes... 60 percent say no.

To vote now... Visit 13WMAZ.com.

Look for the question on the right side of the homepage.


Thanks Tom.

Transportation officials say I-16 is safe now for drivers passing through Laurens County... but the accident did leave its mark.

Laurens County Sheriff Bill Harrell says a section will have to be replaced because it was incinerated.

Work will begin tomorrow... weather permitting.

He couldn't say how long that might take.

but one westbound lane will remain closed until then.

The Sandersville Police...and the GBI...are investigating a shooting that left a man dead late last night.

Washington County coroner E.K. Mays said 54-year-old Sammie Haynes was fatally shot in the neck around 11-30 on Floyd Street.

Haynes later died at a hospital.

Todd Lowery...the GBI's Special Agent-in-Charge in Eastman...says his agents are assisting Sandersville Police with the investigation.

The Jones county sheriff's office has closed its investigation into why a special needs child was left on a school bus for hours Tuesday morning.

Captain Earl Humphries says they didn't find any criminal intent on the part of the bus driver who left 10-year-old Aaron Cook on the bus for more than 6 hours. Aaron has severe autism and doesn't speak. Humphries called it an unfortunate incident but he's thankful Aaron is now safe. Aaron's parents would not comment, but directed us to their attorneys. We have not heard back form the attorneys or the school district.

Grounded aircraft... furloughs... And cancelled government contracts.

Those are just a few affects the undersecretary of the Air Force outlined today... on the impact of sequestration.

That's the the automatic spending cut scheduled to kick-in March 1st.

It would slash 1.2 trillion dollars from the federal budget.... 500 billion dollars of it from the military.

Undersecretary Jamie Morin called the looming cut a "blunt and unmanageable reduction".

He said the Air Force will have to reduce its maintenance work load by a third.

Vice Chief of staff of the Air Force General Larry Spencer said that means cutting maintenance work for 150 aircraft and 80 engines.

That would have a major impact on Robins... Grounding aircraft and stopping work for thousands of civilians.

Prior to today.. the Air Force announced that the sequester would trigger up to 22 days of furloughs for civilian workers.

The reduction they talked about today... could cause additional furlough days for the roughly 9-thousand Robins employees in depot maintenance.

Here's how General Spencer described the outlook for Air Force depots.

<"A combination of the furloughs, a combination of not having airplanes come in, now you got a a depot full of airplanes you can't move. Airplanes and engines stacked up, and oh by the way, as we wind down in Afghanistan, you got equipment coming back that needs to go in the depot, that's a pretty tough situation.">

They say defense contractors will be "squeezed first and the tightest"... with the air force taking 10-percent off the top of all contracts.

Morin and Spencer said that will hit small businesses hardest... the folks who contract for such things such as repairing the runways... Cleaning the buildings or providing IT services

Joining me now for perspective on this is CEO of the 21st Century Partnership and former Robins Air Force Base Commander... General Robert McMahon.

Frank, Leah?

< I've come to understand that... All that stuff that I was taught about Evolution, embryology, the big bang theory...all that is lies straight from the pit of hell...>

That's Congressman Paul Broun, back in October... Speaking at a church event about his belief in creationism over evolution...

Broun has always been outspoken about his Christian beliefs... saying they influence everything he does.

And now he's taking his bid to be a conservative leader to the race for the U.S. Senate Seat held by Saxby Chambliss.

First elected to the U-S House in 2007, Broun is a Republican.

He represents district 10.

That includes Baldwin, Hancock, Washington, and Johnson Counties.

By profession, Broun is a medical doctor.

This month... Chambliss announced that he would not seek re-election in 2014.

Political bloggers and pundits have also floated Congressman Tom Price...former Georgia Secretary of State and candidate for governor Karen Handle...as possible candidates.

Also today... Macon city councilman Larry Schlesinger announced he's running for commissioner under the new consolidated government.

<Larry S.: These are significant times for macon and bibb county and they are really monumental times for us all. Whether you voted for consolidation or not, the vote in favor of consolidating our city and county governments has already started us all on a path that will unite us. But it's also going to test us in ways that simply have no precedence. ">

Voters will decide the new consolidated government later this year.

All week... We've been highlighting information... To keep you and your family safe when severe weather threatens.

And as Ben's been telling us... Before weather strikes... Is the time to educate yourself...

Thanks, Ben.


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