CHATSWORTH, Ga. — River Sosebee, 17, worked at the Bi-Lo supermarket here, was happy to have Alexis Pinson, 18, as his girlfriend, and was partial to posting photos of big pickup trucks on his Facebook page.
Sosebee’s young life came crashing to an end Thursday in a curve along Old CCC Camp Road. The Georgia State Patrol said he lost control of his 2006 Nissan Titan XE pickup truck while driving at a “high rate of speed.” The road is posted at 45 mph.
Sosebee’s pickup rolled into the ditch, critically injuring his girlfriend, Pinson, who was in the front seat, and killing backseat passengers Joshua Roberts, 17, and Chelsie Hullender, 18. Pinson was airlifted to Erlanger hospital in Chattanooga.
Also killed was Bryan Bartley, 57, who was mowing grass alongside the road — a Georgia Scenic Byway with a striking view of Fort Mountain — when Sosebee’s pickup truck rolled over him, the Georgia State Patrol said.
“This is a tragedy that’s affected the county,” said Maj. Greg Fowler of the Murray County Sheriff’s Office. “It’s a close-knit community around here. We’re growing, but people still know who’s who.”
“This is affecting three different schools,” Fowler said. The four teens, he said, attended three different high schools: Murray County High, North Murray High and Mountain Creek Academy. School starts Tuesday.
Murray County Schools officials weren’t available for comment, since Friday was a furlough day and the main office was closed.
“A lot of people were talking about it at band practice today,” said Anna Parham, 15, who was at McDonald’s with her friend Tanessa Green, 17. Both girls wore North Murray Band Member T-shirts.
A woman who lives next door to the crash site said she just happened to look out the window to see the wreck. She called 911.
“Lucky thing we did,” said the woman. “We didn’t hear no tires squeal or nothing.”
Pinson had to be extricated from the truck, she said.
Fowler said the big, sweeping curve where the crash occurred isn’t particularly dangerous.
“We live in a mountainous area here; the roads are curved,” he said. “It pays to drive safely.”
Fowler knew Bartley from Murray County High, where they both graduated in 1975.
“I hadn’t seen Barry that much up until about two months ago,” Bartley said.
They bumped into each other at a Dalton convenience store, and talked in the parking lot.
“You’ve missed all the class reunions,” Fowler remembers telling Bartley. “You need to try and come.”
Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at email@example.com or www.facebook.com/tim.omarzu or twitter.com/TimOmarzu or 423-757-6651.
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.