One of the White County sheriff’s deputies who tried to talk Shannon Hamilton out of interfering with government property at his daughter’s wreck site also had a couple of pointed questions for the grieving father.
“Do you realize there are five or six more bridges just like this in White County? Are going to go fix all of them?” the deputy asked.
“You’re damn right, if you will let me,” Hamilton said.
The Hall County man whose daughter, Cecily Mcree Hamilton, 16, and boyfriend Taylor Scott Swing, 18, both of Cleveland, were killed in a March wreck at the Gene Nix Road bridge has turned tragedy into a personal mission. That mission led to his arrest April 12 as he tried to erect barriers at the bridge.
“I have a calling to help get these other bridges fixed or temporarily addressed as this one was,” Hamilton said last week.
That mission includes reaching out to White County officials, who put up temporary barricades on April 15 and plan this week to put up guardrails at the site.
Hamilton said he hopes that what happened on the Gene Nix bridge “is an eye-opener for the county that hazards exist at other bridges and other areas of roads that need to be immediately addressed.”
A meeting Wednesday with White County officials “went well,” he said. “I have been promised more proactive approaches to county road hazards moving forward.”
Travis Turner, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, said he suggested Hamilton speak with Terry Palmer, public works director, about any concerns.
“We’re supportive of citizen involvement and we’ll consider any information provided by Mr. Hamilton in the future as to what needs are out there that we possibly need to address,” he said.
All the county’s roads are inspected every two to three years, with the last report regarding the Gene Nix Road bridge issued on April 1, 2014. The report showed the bridge as in “fair condition.”
“We realize that even though a bridge may have met state guidelines ... our staff may address additional capital items that go above and beyond what the state requirements are,” Turner said.
“Could our county department have moved faster (on Gene Nix)? Yes,” Turner said. “I assured Mr. Hamilton that the board ... is enacting new policies that, if this were ever to happen (again), we’d see a more efficient turnaround.”
Hamilton said his efforts “may not stop” with White County.
“How far it goes is how ..... far Cecily steers that ship,” he said.
Regarding state routes, Teri Pope, district spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation, said, “Anyone can get involved and setting priorities for projects through project public meetings.”
But otherwise, she said, “people can always call the office with a suggestion.”
Georgians also can express concerns about roads and other infrastructure by completing a form online at dot.ga.gov.
After his arrest, Hamilton said he was outraged that White County had not acted fast enough to at least put temporary barricades at the bridge, which is near Water Cress Road, while working toward a more permanent solution.
The car carrying Cecily Hamilton and Swing went off the shoulder of Gene Nix Road and was found March 15 submerged in a creek that flows under the road, according to Georgia State Patrol.
“Daddy was on a mission,” Hamilton said of his actions to put up barriers. “My baby girl told my heart, ‘Move forward, Daddy. Let’s do it.’”
Charged with felony interference with government property, he was later released on a $5,000 bail. A video of his arrest went viral, garnering millions of views.
Charges were later dropped by Enotah Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jeff Langley. who said Hamilton “assured me there would be no repeat of this conduct.”
Langley “made it clear if we try to do any more help to improve other bridges ... there are appropriate measures we need to take to do that,” Hamilton said. “Message received.”
“We’re taking a very tragic situation and making a positive out of it,” he said.
There are other bridges to fix, as well, in addition to the physical ones crossed by people and cars.
In hearing nationwide from teens and their parents saying “what an inspiration I am to them. this has given me the opportunity to talk to kids about driver safety and adults about repairing relationships with their children while they still can, because tomorrow is never promised,” Hamilton said.