The only thing between a Brunswick couple and an alleged drunk driver early Saturday morning was a stop sign and the front wall to their home at 1919 Goodyear Ave.
State troopers say Kralith Hanson Jones ran that stop sign, then plowed a 2007 Honda Accord into the living room where Eugene Smiley and Pauline Kitchen were watching television at about 2:30 am. The impact sent Smiley, Kitchen and the living room furniture flying into the dining room, causing a serious head injury to Kitchen, Smiley said.
Kitchen, 72, was taken by ambulance to the Southeast Georgia Health System’s Brunswick hospital, where she was flown via helicopter to UF Health Jacksonville hospital with head trauma, according to the Georgia State Patrol. Kitchen suffered bleeding on the brain, but was expected to be released late Tuesday or early Wednesday, said Smiley, 72, her husband of 40 years. Smiley was not injured.
Jones, 45, was arrested and charged with DUI, failure to maintain a lane and failure to stop at a stop sign, the state patrol said. He was booked into the Glynn County Detention Center, where he was released later Saturday on a total of $1,840 bond, according to jail records. Jones submitted to a blood sample at SGHS to test for alcohol content, but results are not yet available, the state patrol said.
Smiley and Kitchen were in the living room enjoying television together, him sitting in an easy chair and Kitchen reclined on the couch, Smiley said. Their adult daughter and 3-year-old granddaughter slept in a nearby bedroom, he said.
Troopers said Jones was driving east on I Street when he approached the intersection with Goodyear Avenue. I Street hits a snag at Goodyear Avenue. To continue eastbound on I Street after the stop sign at Goodyear, motorists must take a right turn on Goodyear, then make a quick left back onto I Street.
Directly across from eastbound I Street at Goodyear Avenue is the front lawn and corner lot home of Smiley and Kitchen. Troopers have not determined how fast Jones was traveling when he allegedly ran the stop sign and smashed into their home, but the damage is extensive. The vehicle traveled more than 100 feet from the stop sign to the point of impact with the home, the state patrol said.
The vehicle “breached the residence, traveling approximately 10 feet into the living room area where it struck a couch with its front right bumper area where (Kitchen) was laying,” the state patrol report said. Kitchen suffered “significant head trauma,” the report said.
Smiley remembers only a “boom!” followed by a bewildering cloud of dust inside the home.
“We were just looking at TV,” Smiley said Tuesday morning. “The car came straight down I Street, it didn’t stop. The sofa, the reclining chair, us, all ended up in the dining room. It was just a big boom and I couldn’t see anything but dust.”
When things came into focus about a minute later, there was a car amid the wreckage of the home the couple have owned since 1987, Smiley said.
“I could hardly see anything at first,” Smiley said. “When all the dust settled, all of a sudden I could see a car. He was sitting there, still in the car. In the house.”
Smiley said Jones backed the car out of the home. Smiley said Jones then waited for police to arrive. Brunswick police responded first, but turned the investigation over to the state patrol.
A pile of exterior red bricks, some broken furniture and other debris sat piled in the yard Tuesday in front of the gaping hole in the house, which was covered with a large sheet of plastic.
“And I had just finished painting the home,” Smiley lamented. “We just had bad luck.”
Fortunately, the home is insured, Smiley said.
In the near future, Smiley plans to install a barrier on the border of his property across from I Street to avoid a repeat of their “bad luck.”
“I’m going to get six big posts and put them up there, in concrete,” he said.
It was the second time in less than three weeks that an alleged drunk driver has crashed into an occupied home in Glynn County. Late on the night of Jan. 29, Glynn County police said a man crashed a 2010 Crown Victoria into a home occupied by a couple and their two young children. No one was injured, but the crash knocked out a front wall and caused extensive damage to the children’s playroom, a family member told The News. Police arrested Hank Jason Pelkey, 45, and charged him with DUI and failure to maintain a lane in connection with that crash, according to police and jail records.