A Glynn County man who was a passenger in a vehicle that crashed last week during a pursuit with law enforcement has died, quite possibly from the injuries sustained when law enforcement initiated a PIT maneuver to stop the car on Interstate 95.
Stephen Wayne DeLoach, 39, died Monday, according to family members and his obituary. DeLoach was flown by helicopter in critical condition to UF Health Shands hospital in Jacksonville following the crash, which occurred at 4:56 p.m. Thursday on northbound I-95 near the Golden Isles Parkway, according to the Georgia State Patrol and Glynn County Police.
DeLoach’s older sister, Stacy Gibbs, said he suffered numerous injuries, including internal injuries, spinal cracks and a broken collar bone. However, DeLoach was released from the hospital Sunday. He died the next day after being transported from his mother’s house to Southeast Georgia Health System’s Brunswick hospital, Gibbs said.
Police said his body was sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s lab for an autopsy and the results are pending.
The driver, Katelyn Elizabeth Jones, 27, was taken to the Brunswick hospital following the crash and transported from there by ambulance to Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah, police said. She faces charges of DUI, fleeing and eluding police, reckless driving, driving on a revoked license, possession of schedule IV narcotics, and causing an accident with injury, police said.
It is now up to Glynn County District Attorney Jackie Johnson to determine whether the charge of causing an accident with injury will be upgraded in light of DeLoach’s death, said state patrol Cpl. Gentry Mattox. The State Patrol’s serious crash reconstruction team is still investigating the crash and will present its findings to Johnson’s office, Mattox said.
“Once that investigation is complete, all will be turned over to the DA’s office and we will go with her findings,” Mattox said. “Everything will be her decision.”
Gibbs said Wednesday that the Chrysler 300 that was involved in the pursuit belonged to her brother. And although DeLoach had experienced some troubles with the law, she is certain he would have not have led police on a chase had he been driving.
“He was a good person,” Gibbs said, holding back tears. “He would never have eluded police himself. It wasn’t his thing. This whole thing has just shocked me.”
State patrol command is reviewing the action of the trooper who performed the PIT, or pursuit intervention technique, Gentry said. He said such a review is standard procedure any time a trooper performs the maneuver, a tactical action in which a trooper uses a patrol vehicle to bump the suspect vehicle in an attempt to disable it.
Trooper Raumando Thompson performed the PIT maneuver on the 2006 Chrysler 300 that Jones was driving just north I-95’s Golden Isles Parkway exit, the state patrol said. The Chrysler then hit a guardrail and flipped upside down.
The pursuit began about 10 miles farther south when county police officer Kevin Yarborough said he spotted the vehicle traveling 83 mph in a 70 mph zone. Yarborough said the car attempted to flee when he drove up behind it with lights and sirens activated.
A Wednesday press release from the Glynn County Police Department said the officer suspected drugs were in the vehicle and that drugs were thrown from the vehicle during the chase.
County police then requested assistance in the pursuit from state troopers. Thompson became the lead vehicle shortly afterward, according to the state patrol.
A PIT maneuver generally is performed when a vehicle’s attempt to elude capture presents a danger to surrounding motorists or public safety in general, Mattox said. Another consideration is whether suspending the pursuit and allowing the suspect vehicle to continue will present a greater danger to the public than attempting to end the pursuit
State troopers performed the PIT maneuver on I-95 at least twice in 2017, with no one seriously injured in either instance. The maneuver was used on Jan. 7 of 2017 to stop a man in stolen a pickup truck who was speeding and driving recklessly from McIntosh County into Glynn County. It was used again on Nov. 29 to stop a man driving an SUV in excess of 100 miles through Glynn and McIntosh counties, causing two crashes with motorists before being stopped with the PIT maneuver.
“It’s a decision the trooper has to make, to do it or not to do it,” Mattox said. “Public safety is always the main objective.”
A Brunswick native and a graduate of Brunswick High, DeLoach, who was known as “Bubba” to friends was a fourth generation commercial shrimper. DeLoach loved being on the water, as well as football and all things automotive. He leaves behind a 13-year-old son.
Gibbs said she hopes her younger brother will be remembered for his work ethic and concern for others, rather than this crash.
“He would help anybody,” she said. “He was a hard worker. Commercial shrimping was in his blood and he just loved it. He had a big heart and was always thinking of others.”