Racing may have led to crash

Published 12:09 am Wednesday, May 21, 2008

VIDALIA — Illegal racing on the Mississippi River Bridge likely led to Sunday’s early morning crash, Vidalia Police said Tuesday.

But even though there were five wrecked vehicles, all of those vehicles were not involved in the same accident.

The first accident, a single-vehicle incident involving a silver Ford Mustang that collided with the bridge, resulted in only minor injuries to the driver and passengers, Vidalia Police Lt. Delayne Bush said.

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It was while police were responding to that accident that someone flagged the patrolman down before he arrived on the scene to inform him that a second, larger accident had occurred.

“It was just past the hump on the eastbound bridge,” Bush said. “That was where the real danger was.”

The second accident, involving a grey Dodge pickup, a green Chrysler four-door sedan, a silver Dodge four-door car and a black Ford Crown Victoria, resulted in two fatalities, one serious injury and one arrest.

The two fatalities, Terrence Johnson, 20, who died on the scene, and Kelvin Keys, 22, who died Monday at University Medical Center, in Jackson, were in the same vehicle, which Bush said he was not able to identify at this point in the investigation.

The third victim, an unidentified person who was seriously injured and transported to a Jackson hospital, was also in the vehicle with Johnson and Keys.

The police would not release the names of those who were driving the vehicles at this point in the investigation, Bush said.

However, the driver of the pickup, Cedric A. Hunter, 24, of Natchez, was arrested and charged with first offense DWI Sunday. He was later released on a $696 bond.

The second accident may have involved alcohol, as all of those involved had reportedly just left a bar in Vidalia, Bush said.

The second accident apparently began before the vehicles involved reached the site of the accident involving the Mustang, but came to a rest at a point beyond it, Bush said.

The police took blood alcohol tests on all of those involved in the accident, including those in the Mustang, but the results have not come back from the state lab, Bush said.

“Any time someone is involved in a major accident, that gives an implied consent to blood alcohol testing,” Bush said. “It’s a safety factor. People can talk about how they had these drugs in their system or they were drunk, but when the test comes back, they either have clear blood or alcohol (in their) blood.”

Others were reportedly in the vehicles, but left the scene in other vehicles that were following them.

The police sent a notice to all local hospitals to report any accident-related injuries that came in for treatment, but they have not received any reports at this time, Capt. Arthur Lewis said.

However, people who witnessed or were involved in the accident are still showing up at the police station, Bush said.

“We are still gathering witnesses,” Bush said.

The state police are assisting in the matter, and will provide scale drawings to recreate the accident, Lewis said.

It may be a while before the Vidalia Police get those drawings, though.

“The local state police troop covers 10 parishes,” Bush said. “They had four major accidents (last weekend), and when they left here they had to respond to a fatality. They have to take things as they come to them.”

When one of the cars was found to have bullet holes in it, rumors of a gunfight preceding the accident began to circulate.

The Vidalia police were able to confirm the vehicle was involved in a shooting incident in Natchez several months ago, and that the bullet holes were from the Natchez incident, Bush said.

While police investigated the scene from approximately 4 a.m. until approximately 2:30 p.m. Sunday, traffic was diverted to two-way driving on the westbound bridge across the Mississippi River.

The matter is still under investigation, and Police Chief Billy Hammers said Monday more charges would likely be filed in the matter.