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Holiday weekend gets off to deadly start

By Ed Brock and Greg Gelpi

The Fourth of July weekend got off to a deadly start Friday with a pedestrian hit on Tara Boulevard. Police in Clayton law officers in Clayton and Henry counties are urging residents to buckle up, slow down, don't drink and drive and try to survive the long holiday weekend.

Poor lighting was a factor in the early morning accident on Tara Boulevard in which a pickup truck hit and killed a pedestrian.

Police were not releasing the victim's name pending notification of his relatives but Clayton County police Capt. Jeff Turner said he was a Hispanic male in his late teens or early 20s and was carrying a Mexican identification card.

The man tried to cross Tara Boulevard near Central Avenue when he was struck by a pickup driven by Richard Vickery, 60, of Hampton who was on his way to work. Turner said Vickery would not be charged.

"According to witnesses (the victim) darted out into the road," Turner said.

Turner said police are hoping someone related to the man will come forward to identify him.

On Thursday in Henry County Melvin Brown, 41, an employee with Crowder Construction, was killed shortly before 3 p.m. when a concrete stairwell fell on him during the final phases of construction near the digester of the new wastewater plant. Brown had worked on the Walnut Creek Project since it began two years ago, and he also had experience working on the Authority's Indian Creek project. He had been with Crowder for approximately five years.

Red, white and blue has exploded across Clayton and Henry counties as people have been flying their colors, preparing for weekend cookouts and filling up their gas tanks for trips to visit friends and families.

Area department stores reporting brisk sells of anything red, white and blue and grocery stores have been selling lots of barbecue and grilling food.

Sack races with the children and barbecue on the grill, Wilbert Henderson of Jonesboro is planning a "traditional" Fourth of July feast this weekend.

Henderson said he and friends will also squeeze in some of his homemade potato salad and a little watermelon before watching the NASCAR race Saturday night.

Barbecue is on the menu for Simone Neloms as well as "just chilling" for the holiday weekend. Neloms said her aunt will be serving up the barbecue and feeding the family this weekend.

While some are staying in the Southern Crescent others are heading South. Christopher Taylor is hitting the beach and taking to the water in his boat.

Taylor said he and his family will spend the Fourth in Destin, Fla., fishing for snapper, an annual excursion with his family.

The Georgia Department of Motor Vehicle Safety and the Georgia State Patrol are predicting that 14 Georgians will die in motor vehicle accidents this weekend.

DMVS and State Patrol officials are also predicting 2,044 accidents that will result in 665 injuries during the holiday period between 6 p.m. Friday and midnight Sunday.

Last year there were 2,453 accidents during a 78-hour holiday period, and those accidents led to 19 deaths and 711 injuries. Alcohol or drugs were a factor in 11 of the fatalities. During the holiday weekend police and state troopers will be participating in Operation Zero Tolerance that focuses on catching impaired drivers.

Riverdale police officers will also be performing increased patrols over the holiday weekend, Riverdale police Chief Greg Barney said.

Another summertime challenge according to the DMVS is the fact that more teen drivers are on the road.

"I would like to encourage drivers to be safe and smart on the roadways this July 4th holiday weekend," said DMVS Commissioner James R. Davis. "Don't forget that you can lose everything from your license to your life if you drink and drive. Please, remember to wear your safety belt and ask those riding with you to do the same."

Gas prices

In the two counties, gas prices have been dropping steadily leading up to this weekend's holiday. Some prices as low as 166 a gallon for regular have been spotted in Clayton and Henry counties.

Travel officials report there are plenty of supplies of gas and a number of stations will be open during the long holiday weekend.

One thing that has made this holiday weekend a little different is that July 4th falls on a Sunday. Many governmental offices were closed on Friday, but many businesses and banks will be closed on Monday. There will be no postal service on Monday.

Officials at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport report a steady stream of people going to resort and other areas this holiday weekend but no problems were reported.

Efforts have been made to shorten lines at the airport.

More than 1.3 million people were expected to move through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport during the holiday season, airport spokeswoman Lanii Thomas said. With the exception of a 50-minute wait at the security checkpoints that happened around 6 a.m., Thomas said those crowds have been flowing through smoothly.

"We thought we were going to get another long wait this afternoon but it didn't occur," Thomas said.

On June 25 the Transportation Safety Administration opened four new lanes at the checkpoint. Also, the airport now has video displays just outside the checkpoint in which a 2-minute video explains the process and how passengers can expedite the process.

Thomas said the number of passengers expected this weekend is a 3 percent increase over last year. Airport officials are also expecting 2004 to be a record year for the airport with close to 85 million passengers served.

Blood supplies

The American Red Cross' Southern Region, that includes Clayton and Henry counties, put out an urgent request for donors, fearing that dwindling supplies could cause problems over the holiday.

Donors will type O negative and O positive blood are especially needed, officials said. There is less than 12 hours of O blood in the Red Cross inventory.

"We get very concerned when a big holiday is coming up and there is so little blood on the shelves," said Chris Hrouda, chief executive officer of the Red Cross' Southern Region. "With so many people on the roads there are more accidents and a major blood shortage like this could make for a serious health crisis.

A car accident victim can require anywhere from four to 100 pints of blood, depending on the severity of the injuries.

To find out more or how to donate, call 1-800-GIVE LIFE (448-3543).