Driver pronounced dead after one-car accident

During my only weekend G.A. shift during the semester, I wasn’t expecting a lot of activity on a seemingly quiet Sunday afternoon. However, that belief quickly changed as news of a fiery car accident resonated from the police scanner.

The crash occurred at the intersection of Grindstone Parkway and Rock Quarry Road, so I knew traffic congestion was going to be brutal. Luckily, I found a spot to park my car at The Grove, and I walked the remaining distance to the scene. Just as I was arriving, I spoke to a bystander who had witnessed the crash from opposite lane of traffic. Although the mangled Toyota Camry was hard to look at, I quickly learned that it could have been much worse. 

This was my first opportunity to report at the scene of an accident, and I enjoyed the thrill of the assignment. A media coordinator never arrived at the scene, so I did all of the reporting by talking to witnesses and public officials. It was definitely a valuable learning experience for me, and I’m now much more comfortable covering car accidents and asking the right questions . 

Driver pronounced dead after one-car accident

Sunday, November 17, 2013 | 4:44 p.m. CST; updated 12:49 p.m. CST, Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Patrol Officer Caleb Bowen directs traffic on the intersection of Grindstone Parkway and Rock Quarry Road on Sunday after an accident occurred around 2 p.m. According to Sergeant John Dye, not pictured, a male motorist hit the median protecting the sidewalk on the eastbound side of Grindstone Parkway, causing the Toyota Camry to become airborne and hit the opposite corner’s light pole.   ¦  JOSHUA BOUCHER

COLUMBIA — A Columbia man died Sunday after his car went airborne and crashed into a traffic pole at the intersection of Grindstone Parkway and Rock Quarry Road. 

Gabriel J. Watkins, 27, of Columbia was driving a blue Toyota Camry east on Grindstone Parkway shortly after 2 p.m. when he veered into the median that separates the intersection and the right-hand turning lane. This caused the car to go airborne and crash into a nearby traffic light post, said Columbia police Sgt. John Dye.

Kevin Boyer, a witness at the scene, said that Watkins appeared to be speeding through the intersection at the time of the accident. Boyer said it looked like the driver had lost control and he was afraid that the Camry would hit his car.

The force of the accident tore off the front of the car and crushed in the passenger side of the car.

Watkins had to be cut out of the car, and he was transported to University Hospital with life-threatening injuries, according to Columbia Fire Department Battalion Chief James Weaver.

Almost an hour after the crash, Watkins was pronounced dead, according to a Columbia Police Department news release. 

He was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash, and all of the car’s airbags deployed. No passengers or other vehicles were involved in the accident.

The accident caused the intersection to be closed. It was gradually reopened Sunday afternoon. 

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