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Staff photo by Tim Barber / In the 2900 block of Hamill Road in Hixson, a memorial is seen in May 2019 along the roadside marking the place where Chattanooga police Officer Nicholas Galinger lost his life.

Barry Galinger still thinks about his son, Nicholas Galinger, every day.

Nicholas Galinger, a Chattanooga police officer, was struck by a vehicle while he was inspecting an overflowing manhole in the 2900 block of Hamill Road just after 11 p.m. on Feb. 23, 2019. The force of the impact knocked him into the windshield, over the roof and about 160 feet down the road, according to investigators.

The driver fled the scene, and Nicholas Galinger was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead minutes before midnight. He was 38.

Nicholas Galinger, originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, had just moved to Chattanooga in August 2018 to pursue his dream of being a police officer, his father has said. He graduated from the police academy the month before his death.

He was transported back to his hometown for his funeral. Several hundred visitors streamed into the visitation, held at Mount Washington Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, to pay their respects to a life cut short. He was buried at Mt. Moriah Cemetery.

Police say 55-year-old Janet Hinds was driving at a "very high speed in poor weather conditions" just after 11 p.m. on Feb. 23. She did not stay in her lane and "failed to observe and react to signs posted by Public Works covering exposed manhole covers," according to investigators. She didn't turn herself in to authorities until nearly 48 hours later.

She faces 10 criminal charges, including vehicular homicide by intoxication, driving under the influence, leaving the scene of an accident with death, reckless driving, failure to maintain lane and failure to render aid.

Prosecutors have said Hinds drank 76 ounces of beer and one shot of vodka over the course of three and a half hours at the Farm to Fork restaurant in Ringgold, Georgia. She started driving back home to Hixson around 10:33 p.m. and struck Galinger just over 30 minutes later.

The case is expected to go to trial on Sept. 29. The trial could be moved to a different county, or an out-of-town jury could be brought in if an impartial jury cannot be seated.

"We need a fair and impartial trial," Barry Galinger said after the trial date selection. "That's what [my wife] Gretchen and I want, too."

Nicholas Galinger's children, especially, have been affected by their father's death.

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"[The daughter] is quiet and holds it all in," said Barry Galinger. "[The boy] is a little more talkative about it. And, you know, his heart hurts. They miss their dad. Nicholas was their life. Now with his absence in their life, I worry about their futures."

Since his death, Barry Galinger said he and his wife have said they've had to learn to share their son with Chattanooga.

"This is bigger than you and I, now," Barry Galinger has said of telling his wife. "This is a community that is mourning our son and trying to find answers.'"

In the meantime, the Galingers have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Hinds and recently moved to add the city of Chattanooga, as well as the restaurant at which she drank alcohol, as defendants.

The family's attorney, Ben Rose, argues Farm to Fork should be held accountable for continuing to serve alcohol to Hinds when servers knew, or should have known, that she was "noticeably intoxicated." Restaurant employees, though, have testified in criminal court that Hinds showed no signs of impairment.

Rose also claims the city knew about the risks posed by the overflowing manhole because it had already been to the site to place a warning sign beside the manhole cover after it had become dislodged. And, almost exactly one year earlier, the city had paid "a substantial amount of money" to one driver who allegedly hit the manhole after a heavy rain dislodged its cover, Rose claims.

The city and restaurant have declined to comment on the pending litigation.

For Barry Galinger and his family, the memories of Nicholas Galinger are ever-present.

"Every morning we wake up, he's there. And every night we go to bed, he's there," Barry Galinger said.

Contact Rosana Hughes at rhughes@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327 with tips or story ideas. Follow her on Twitter @Hughes Rosana.

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