Samuel Martin must drive past the scene of his son’s death every day.
“I try not to think too hard on it, because I just don’t quite understand it,” he said. “It’s rough. It’s been real rough.”
He and his wife Janice Martin work to make sense of the deadly wreck June 30 that took their 13-year-old son, Dalton Martin, along with four other people.
The driver, Amanda Lynn Pardue, 34, drove her Ford Explorer across a raised concrete median into the path of a tractor-trailer headed southbound on Athens Highway near Oak Grove Road, only a few minutes from Martin’s home.
All five people in the Ford Explorer died, including two of Pardue’s children, Kaleigh, 8, and Eli Emfinger, 2, and Dalton’s grandfather, Robbie Adams Hollis, 52. The driver of the tractor-trailer, Eric Eberhardt, did not have any life-threatening injuries.
The crash ejected Pardue from the vehicle. The Georgia State Patrol report lists her seat belt usage as “unknown,” while Kaleigh and Dalton were listed as not wearing any restraints.
“Dalton always wore a seat belt,” said his stepmother, Janice Martin. “He knew that was what you do.”
Friday, the GSP learned from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab that Pardue drove under the influence of methamphetamines and other drugs at a high level. Combined with other prescription medications, Gainesville GSP Post Commander Chad Johnson said Pardue’s meth levels were “higher than the highest caliber of 800 micrograms per liter.”
“It’s a real bad shame that everybody that was involved there down at the house didn’t realize they were on something,” Samuel Martin said.
Samuel Martin said he was aware of rumors about Pardue’s history with methamphetamines, including previous charges in 2009 for attempting to manufacture methamphetamine and second-degree child cruelty. Pardue originally pleaded guilty to the methamphetamine charge in 2010, but the district attorney’s office decided to nolle prosequi, meaning to not pursue, the charge in 2013 after she completed Hall County Drug Court. As a result, Pardue was able to have the child cruelty charge dismissed.
Dalton’s father said he did not associate much with Pardue and her family, nor was he aware that she was going to Hollis’ home where Dalton was spending time with his grandfather.
When trying to make sense of the situation, Samuel Martin said his belief in God will eventually clarify this tragedy.
“I just keep my faith and trust in God that he’s done the right thing somehow. Maybe now I don’t see it, but maybe later on in life it will come to me,” he said. “For right now, I don’t understand none of it. Why would innocent children have to pay for something grown folks are doing?”
Family dinners without Dalton at the table, Janice Martin said, have been difficult to process. To help ease the grieving, Samuel Martin said he has been taking Dalton’s siblings to counselors.
“Dalton was very loved, and it’s real tragic that he had to go out like that,” Samuel Martin said.