Quinten PlummerThe Valdosta Daily Times
LAKE PARK — Lowndes County Coroner Bill Watson confirmed Tuesday that one of the passengers involved in the single-vehicle accident in July on Twin Lakes Road passed away due to blunt-force trauma, after she and another passenger were ejected from the cab of a pickup truck.
Driver Johnny Moore and Dr. Julia Troyer, a Valdosta State University instructor, had been wearing seat belts, according to reports. But the two women in the back did not use safety restraints and were ejected through the back of the truck when it crashed into a ditch on the side of the road.
The accident report released by Georgia State Patrol troopers provides details on the accident, which has continued to raise more questions as details become known.
For example, GSP troopers who responded to the overturned truck were met with a wrecker and a Lowndes County sheriff’s deputy instead of the four individuals who had been involved in the wreck, according to the report. Upon further investigation, officers reportedly found that the truck’s license plate had been removed and stowed behind a seat and the purses of Moore’s back-seat passengers were found deep in the woods. The report states that Moore told officers he hid the purses and removed the plate.
The sheriff’s deputy stated in the GSP’s report that he had originally been dispatched to an EMS station in Lake Park, where he stated two seriously injured women had been dropped off. One woman was conscious and identified herself as Karen Beck, stated the deputy, but the other woman, Victoria Hanson, was unresponsive the entire time he was there.
Both women were transported to South Georgia Medical Center by ambulance from the EMS station, but while Beck survived her injuries, Hanson did not.
The wrecker driver and Beck were able to provide enough details to officers that they were able to identify the driver and the third passenger, Dr. Troyer. Authorities reported a number of inconsistencies when they contacted Troyer initially via cell phone for an account of the accident, which she attributed to disorientation, shock and confusion. She stated in the GSP report that she barely knew the vehicle’s three other passengers and was simply catching a ride home from a party at a neighboring residence. The following is an excerpt of her statement to GSP:
“I asked [Troyer] who was driving the vehicle and she stated she didn’t know the name of the driver, but it was male. I asked who was occupying the vehicle excluding her and she stated she didn’t know the passengers very well.”
Troyer was asked to come to Post 13 of the GSP for an interview. But Moore, the driver, had disappeared into the night after the accident.
Later, GSP troopers transported Troyer to her residence to perform a search for Moore after Moore’s father identified Troyer as Moore’s girlfriend and told GSP officers Moore lived with Troyer. Troopers reportedly found small amounts of marijuana on the kitchen counter, but no Moore.
Several hours later, Moore turned himself in at the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office. Reports described his eyes as bloodshot, his breath as intoxicated, his speech as mumbled and his clothing as disheveled, but officers said he was polite and crying during the interview.
Two GSP troopers conducted and recorded a multimedia interview with Moore, who recounted the day starting with his sundown meet-up with then-girlfriend and Valdosta State University professor Julia Troyer. Moore stated that after eating at a local restaurant with a friend, they picked up Beck and Hanson and the group passed the time at Troyer’s residence until roughly 3 a.m., when he and Troyer left to take Beck and Hanson home.
Moore stated in the interview with troopers that, before the accident, he had been driving roughly 40 miles per hour down the dirt road, when the truck either hit a bump in the road or his knee hit the steering wheel and sent the truck into the ditch.
In the interview, Moore described the scene after the accident in the GSP report:
“He stated that Karen and Vicki weren’t wearing seat belts. He stated that when they came to rest he realized Karen and Vicki had been ejected. He stated Karen was lying in the ditch and Vicki was under the truck. He stated he ‘freaked out’ and pulled Vicki out from under the truck to make sure she was still breathing.”
Moore stated that he then called a friend to transport the injured women to an EMS station, hid his license plate in the truck’s back seat, and then he hid the women’s purses in the woods to conceal their identities.
After everyone else left, Moore fled.
Moore also confirmed that the marijuana at Troyer’s residence was his and provided the trooper with a description of the container in which it was stored. He said it was purchased earlier that day and he smoked one joint that evening and drank several beers, the report states.
Moore was arrested and released several hours after the accident, but Sergeant Carl Taylor, Georgia State Patrol Post 31 commander, said additional charges are still being weighed against both Moore and Troyer.
So far, Moore has been reportedly charged with tampering with evidence, marijuana possession, leaving the scene of an accident, failure to report an accident with injury/death/damage, driving under the influence, vehicular homicide and serious injury by vehicle, according to the GSP.
Troyer has been reportedly charged with tampering with evidence, possession of marijuana and obstruction, according to the GSP. It is unclear whether or not VSU has or will take any disciplinary action against Troyer, who, as of Tuesday, Aug. 14, was still listed as a lecturer on the university’s schedule of classes for the Fall 2012 semester. VSU officials declined to comment further.
The accident remains under investigation. Drug and alcohol tests performed on the truck’s occupants are still pending as well.