A driver who just after 10 a.m. Monday led local authorities on a high-speed chase and crash in a residential area remained in the intensive care unit at Crisp Regional Hospital as of noon Tuesday.
City police records identify him as Tonio Antwain Sanders, 19 of 511 Ninth Ave. E., and show he faces numerous charges as the result of his actions that damaged a utility pole, city fire hydrant and vacant building.
Officer Brenton West said he first attempted to stop Sanders’ car at Owens Street and 14th Avenue after receiving information from sheriff’s deputies that they had detected a strong odor of suspected marijuana coming from Sanders’ vehicle as it sat on the Belk’s parking lot.
The driver failed to heed efforts to be stopped by both West and deputy Chase McNeese while reaching speeds of 44 mph and failing to maintain the normal lane of traffic.
After ignoring a stop sign on 14th Avenue, Sanders headed north on First Street where chase speeds surpassed 50 mph. Seconds after passing another vehicle that was going over railroad tracks, the car ran out of control.
Dash cam footage showed Sanders’ Mercury Grand Marquis briefly went airborne and sent sparks flying and water spewing when it took out a Crisp County Power Commission pole and a city fire hydrant. The vehicle came to a stop after hitting the old Best Manufacturing site.
In an interview with an Albany television station, West described the chase as something akin to “a scene out of an action movie.
“When I saw the vehicle go airborne into the light pole and then slide sideways into the building as water from the fire hydrant went everywhere and the power line was arcing, it was crazy.”
While no motive was immediately established as to why Sanders tried to elude authorities, it was later learned he was being sought on a probation violation warrant.
Described by West as “real lucky” to apparently be injured no more seriously than he was, Sanders was charged with fleeing or attempting to elude police, stop sign violation, failure to maintain lane, passing within 100 feet of an intersection or rail crossing and reckless driving.
Water service loss was restricted to approximately 7-8 businesses in the area until about 9 p.m. as before they could make repairs city crews had to wait until power crews safely restored electrical service.
An estimated 200 residential customers in areas between 9th and 17th Avenues from Second to Pecan Street including Cordele Square Shopping Center were without power for about 20 minutes.
A half-dozen or so commercial businesses in the immediate area of the crash scene had no electricity for about 6 1/2 hours.
Damages to the fire hydrant and repair costs were estimated by a city spokesman at a “ballpark figure of around $3,000.” A Crisp County Power Commission employee said that utility had an estimated “$2,000 losses give or take a few hundred dollars” in pole replacement and employee labor costs.