Walker County ambulance driver investigated

A Walker County ambulance driver is under investigation after his vehicle swerved across U.S. Highway 27, police said, and hit an oncoming car two weeks ago.

Georgia State Patrol troopers said charges are expected against 22-year-old Gerald Zigner once the report is complete.

Police believe Zigner, who has been working for Walker County Emergency Services for about 90 days, fell asleep when he was taking a nonemergency patient from Walker County to a hospital in Rome, Ga., about 6 p.m.

The ambulance swerved across the highway in Floyd County and rammed into an oncoming Kia, causing the ambulance to flip, said Georgia State Patrol Trooper Rick Ceballos.

The passenger of the Kia, Terri Payne, was taken to Erlanger hospital and was in critical condition for several days, Ceballos said. She broke several bones and now is recovering at a rehabilitation center in Floyd County, he said.

The patient in the ambulance was released from the hospital the same day as the accident, he said.

Tony Brock, a witness in the investigation, said he was driving behind the ambulance for about 1 1/2 miles and the vehicle kept swerving back and forth across the highway.

"[Then] he made a bee-line into ongoing traffic and he hit [the car] face on," Brock said.

While Ceballos would not say what charges Zigner faces, he said he will talk with other investigators this week to decide what the charges should be.

Zigner and the EMS worker in the back of the ambulance are still on medical leave from work, said Walker County Fire Chief Randy Campy, but he'll be allowed back to work once he heals.

EMS officials will wait for the investigation to be completed before making any final decisions about Zigner, he said.

Zigner had worked as an EMS driver for about four years when he was hired and "he had an exceptional driving record," Camp said.

A team from the Georgia State Patrol has been helping Ceballos with the investigation and constructed a detailed diagram that mapped out each moment of the accident, said Georgia State Patrol Sgt. Tommy Sturdivan.

Zigner had been on shift for about 12 hours when the accident occurred, Sturdivan said. When Zigner was interviewed, "he told me he doesn't remember anything," Sturdivan said.

He and Ceballos plan to finish the investigation by Friday or early next week, Sturdivan said.