FOREST PARK — Forest Park Police are asking for the public’s help after a big rig loaded with 44,000 pounds of bacon drove over a steep embankment on Aug. 4. The driver was pronounced dead at the scene.
Both the cause of the accident and of the driver’s death remain under investigation, according to Forest Park Police.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokesperson Nelly Miles said the GBI has conducted an autopsy, adding, “Further tests are pending before a cause and manner of death can be determined.” Miles said the results “could take weeks for completion.”
Witnesses at the scene had told reporters that Antonio Jerod Smith, 47, was driving in the 4100 block of Jonesboro Road around 12:38 p.m. when a car allegedly cut him off, then hit the brakes. Smith apparently lost control of his truck, which rolled over the embankment at the Jonesboro Plaza shopping center and landed behind the On Track Car Wash.
Several steel guardrail I-beam posts were flattened and a power pole had been replaced where the truck left the road. A skid mark on the sidewalk and tracks through the weeds show where the truck jumped the curb.
However, video from a business directly across the street does not show any vehicle as witnesses had described, either in front of or around the truck, at the time of the crash.
Todd Locke, manager of Credit City used cars, said cameras on the building captured the crash. Locke played the video for the Clayton News. It shows light traffic, mostly northbound, then a bicyclist heading north, then a red pickup truck also heading north. Several seconds later, Smith’s truck pulls into view, the cab veers off the steep embankment, then the trailer rolls downward and the truck disappears from view.
“I don’t know if they just got scared or what,” Smith’s sister, Latwanda Langdon, told reporters at the scene. “But they kept going.” She called the other driver’s actions “heartless.”
Forest Park Police and Fire Department crews were on the scene for nearly 15 hours, as the truck had to be unloaded before it could be recovered.
“While it’s our first instinct to try to avoid a collision,” said Lisa Estess, “it’s impossible to stop like a car. If only the general public would get that through their heads!”
Jason Sterns added, “This is why I am always saying ‘stop hitting your brakes for these people, just hit them.’ And get a dash cam and use it. I’m not killing myself for anybody … you cut me off and/or brake check me then you’re getting hit, and it’ll be on camera. A man is dead because he didn’t want to hit someone who cut him off and brake checked him. RIP driver.”
Increased tractor-trailer traffic from Gillem Logistics Center and I-675 is a major economic boost for the city and for Clayton County. It also means drivers who are used to having more room are now sharing local streets and main arteries like Jonesboro Road and Forest Parkway with many more commercial truckers.
Asked to comment, Mayor Angelyne Butler said, “Our deepest condolences go out to the victim’s family. Our police, fire and public works departments, in coordination with GDOT and other state officials, do an amazing job working toward the safety of all commuters driving within our city, especially in the light of our commercial traffic. However, safely traversing our roads is a joint initiative in which each driver must be astute and, as a city, we must continue to monitor all incidents and implement additional safety practices as they are identified.”
Smith was bound for Miami at the time of the accident, just hours after a family get-together.
“He loved driving his truck,” Langdon said. “So he left here doing what he loved to do.”
The Forest Park Police Department is urging anyone who may have witnessed the accident to contact Detective Sgt. Hollowood at 404-366-4141.