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Skies expected to clear, but flooding remains a concern in Calhoun, Gordon County

More than a dozen roads around Gordon County remained closed Thursday evening due to flooding as much of Northwest Georgia remained under a hazardous weather outlook advisory from the National Weather Services in Peachtree City.

The good news is that outlook was predicted to be lifted as the weekend approached.

According to the NWS, continued runoff from recent rainfall is contributing to ongoing river flooding across the area, with several rivers, creeks and streams near or in flood stage. Strong thunderstorms remained possible across portions of east and central Georgia through the remainder of Thursday.

However, beginning Friday through Tuesday, the area is not expected to see any more rain or storms until Tuesday, and even those systems are expected to be isolated.

Flooding remains a concern in the region though.

The Gordon County Emergency Management Agency reported Thursday evening that the following roads remained close because of high water: Cook Road, River Bend Road from Thomas Bluff Road to Cutoff Road, Sam Hunt Road, McDaniel Station Road, Water Tank Road, Beamer Bottom Road, Langford Road, Beamer Circle Road, Thomas Bluff Road, Miller Ferry Road, Mauldin Road S.E. and Reeves Station Road.

The agency urged residents in a Facebook post to call 911 to report any additional flooded roads.

The National Weather Service issued flood warnings for the Oostanaula River near Resaca and Calhoun on Thursday. According to the NWS, the Oostanaula had risen to 26.1 feet near Rome by Thursday afternoon, just more than a foot over the 25 feet flood stage. The agency said it expected the river to continue to rise until after midnight Friday and not fall below flood stage until Saturday afternoon.

The NWS is predicting a only slight chance of rain Saturday night, Sunday and Monday, but isolated showers are likely on Tuesday.

Community Foundation awards grant to help expand VAC services

The Calhoun-Gordon Community Foundation announced this week their recent award of a $20,000 grant to the Voluntary Action Center (VAC), also known as Hand-Up Inc., to help fund their Community Kitchen Expansion Project.

The foundation has awarded 101 grants totaling over $725,000 to local organizations since its inception in 2005.

“The VAC’s hot lunch program is a lifeline for so many struggling individuals and families in our community,” said Kristy S. Brown, chairman of the Calhoun-Gordon Community Foundation. “After they renovate and reorganize their building, they will be able to provide dinner services as well. We wanted to help them with that.”

The renovation master plan includes expanding the existing kitchen and food prep areas; converting the existing dining area to refrigerated storage; transforming the current training room into a larger dining area capable of seating 80 people; closing in the breezeway and adding a service window; converting the existing women’s bathroom into a dining room restroom; and other improvements.

“The bottom line is that the construction project will allow us to help more individuals and families who need us,” said Stacy Long, VAC’s executive director. “We will continue to serve our neighbors in need, the working poor and senior citizens during lunch, but offering dinners will allow children who are currently on the free or reduced lunch rosters at school to have a hot dinner as well.”

Long says that they will slowly phase in dinners after the construction is completed, which will be somewhere in the March to June timeframe.

“The Community Foundation has been integral to the VAC’s success for several years,” she said. “Back in 2011, they awarded a grant that allowed us to purchase the commercial equipment to furnish our kitchen. That was a game changer for us, and helped us begin providing meals to the most vulnerable of our community. As of today, we’ve served 183,675 hot meals.”

“Philanthropy and charitable giving are critical to the overall health and welfare of our community,” said David Aft, president of the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia. “Giving often makes the difference between being able to help those in need and not. The Community Foundation is proud to be part of this critical equation and the important work of so many valuable organizations and programs.”

The Calhoun-Gordon Community Foundation is an affiliate of the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia. The foundation’s main focus is working with individuals and families throughout Northwest Georgia to simplify and enhance giving, estate and tax planning by offering a variety of fund types. The foundation also promotes charitable giving by connecting people to nonprofits and civic projects that may be of interest to them. To learn more about the Foundation, contact Aft at 706-275-9117.

DA reviewing wreck investigation involving Rep. Kelley, Cedartown police chief

CEDARTOWN — A delay in emergency care in a case involving Rep. Trey Kelley and Cedartown Police Chief Jamie Newsome could have led to a man’s death, according to a coroner’s report.

A grand jury will determine if criminal charges will be brought in the case resulting from the September 2019 hit-and-run that killed 38-year-old Eric Keais.

In a written statement, Tallapoosa Circuit District Attorney Jack Browning said the Georgia State Patrol recently turned over to his office the files from the completed investigation.

“The investigation, like many other fatality investigations, was lengthy, involving numerous witness interviews and evidence gathered from various agencies and other entities,” Browning said. “This commonly slows and adds to the time necessary to complete such an investigation.”

Keais, who was riding a bicycle, was struck and killed on the night of Sept. 11, 2019, on Main Street just north of Cedartown.

Polk County Coroner Tony Brazier listed the cause on the death certificate as homicide by hit and run. His report stated that Keais was struck by a vehicle driven by Ralph “Ryan” Dover III.

“Our office has already begun the process of reviewing the investigation to determine what and who will be charged for the incident that resulted in Mr. Keais’s tragic death,” Browning said.

“I anticipate bringing those charges to a Polk County grand jury soon in the coming weeks,” his statement continued. “On behalf of myself and the District Attorney’s Office, our deepest condolences go out to Mr. Keais’s family for their tragic loss.”

The coroner’s report stated Dover and Kelley were waiting across the street from the incident location in the Dollar General parking lot in Cedartown after the incident happened.


Reports generated by the coroner state Keais was struck at 8:20 p.m., but the first police on the scene calling for ambulance and fire service didn’t happen until 9:26 p.m.

The report stated that GSP investigators noted “that there had not only been a hit and run aspect to this (Motor Vehicle Accident/Fatality) but there was a breach in the dispatch of assistance to our victim, Eric C. Keais.”

According to reports provided by the coroner’s office:

After Dover struck Keais with his vehicle, he left the scene just north of Frances Drive and North Main Street. He drove his damaged vehicle eight-tenths of a mile to a local business, where he then called Kelley, who is an attorney.

Dover wanted Kelley to come down to where he had parked and said “he had struck something on North Main Street while driving southbound.”

When asked about the timeline of events, Kelley stated that, to the best of his recollection, he received a phone call from Dover sometime after 8:30 p.m. and that he arrived between 8:45 to 8:50 p.m. They then returned to the spot on North Main Street across the roadway in the Dollar General Market parking lot.

The statement aligns with the coroner’s report that Kelley inspected the car before they left the location where Dover had parked.

Keais was later found in the ditch across from the store.

Prior to that, Kelley called Cedartown Police Chief Jamie Newsome to send an officer out to see what Dover had hit. Newsome contacted Sgt. Josh Turner on his phone via 911’s radio system.

During the time between when Keais was struck and when help arrived, an hour and four minutes passed.

Recordings from 911 provided to the Polk Standard Journal through an open records request show that Newsome called for Turner to call him at around 9:17 p.m. It was 9:22 p.m. before Turner arrived on the scene and began searching.

Calling for assistance

Sgt. Turner found Keais’ body in the ditch some 75 to 100 feet away from the bicycle in the roadway, according to Brazier. It was 9:28 p.m. before EMS and fire services were called to the scene by 911.

Once dispatched, it only took EMS around two minutes to arrive.

A medical airlift was requested to transport Keais. But before it could lift off, emergency personnel were struggling to bring him back and canceled the inbound helicopter.

“By now it is obvious that our victim had been lying in the ditch for at least an hour, which probably affected his condition and ultimate ability to survive his injuries,” the coroner’s report stated.

The report continues with an explanation: “The golden hour dictates that the sooner that a trauma patient’s mortality is impacted by a trauma center, the greater the chances are that trauma patients can make a complete recovery. The sooner the victim gets into a trauma center, the better the outcome for that victim.”

“I feel that our victim was cheated and denied that dignity of care and subsequently could have survived his injuries,” the coroner stated. “The lapse in time denied him that care and denied him a chance at living.”

Keais was pronounced dead at 10:15 p.m. that night at the hospital.

According to the additional information provided with the death certificate, the report specifically lists Dover, Kelley and Newsome by name as being involved in the incident.

‘Nothing that indicated a life or death situation’Newsome declined to provide a statement, citing the investigation’s status as still open.

For his part, Kelley provided a written statement.

“It is heartbreaking that our community has experienced a tragedy like this,” Kelley stated. “Our thoughts and our prayers go out to the victim and the families involved. After getting messages from so many, I wanted to take the time to give my perspective.”

It continued with Kelley’s explanation of the events.

“During the night of September 11, 2019, I received a call from a Polk County citizen who I had seen earlier in the night at the Polk County Fair and is well-known to have limited mental capacity. He was agitated and upset because he had been involved in an accident and thought he may have hit an animal,” Kelley stated.

He said he attempted to calm down Dover but decided to go “assess the situation and figure out what had happened. So, I got dressed, put my boots back on, and got in my truck.”

When he got there, Kelley said, he didn’t realize there was another person involved in the incident.

“After arriving and driving up and down the road, I saw nothing that indicated a life or death situation,” he stated. “But when I saw a bike located in the ditch off the right side of the roadway, I felt the right thing to do was to call the police and that is what I did.”

“At that time, I still did not know another human being was involved. I fully cooperated with law enforcement at the scene and in the ongoing investigation as a witness and will continue to do so.”

Gordon County plane crash victims identified

An Atlanta-area pilot, his adult son and two other adults were identified as the victims of the fatal airplane that occurred Saturday morning in the woods near Fairmount.

According to Gordon County Deputy Coroner Christy Nicholson: Roy Smith, 68, of Fayetteville; his son, 25-year-old Morgen Smith of Atlanta; the son’s girlfriend, 23-year-old Savannah Sims of Atlanta; and 63-year-old Raymond Sluk of Senoia all died during the crash.

The four were aboard a Cessna Citation business-line jet that disappeared en route to Nashville at about 10:10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 8. Multiple residents in the Fairmount area reported hearing a loud boom not long after.

Gordon County Chief Deputy Robert Paris said the wreckage of the aircraft was found a few hours later in a rugged area about four miles off of Mauldin Road near Fairmount. He said four-wheel-drive vehicles were required to get near the scene, but investigators still had to approach on foot due to the rough terrain.

Heidi Kemner, an air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, said last weekend during a news conference that the jet departed from Atlanta Regional Airport-Falcon Field in Peachtree City at about 9:45 a.m. While it was snowing at the time the weather has not been determined to have been a factor in the crash.

Federal investigators will look at the pilot’s record and training, the aircraft’s maintenance and weather conditions at the time of the crash, NTSB spokesman Terry Williams said.

The wreckage has been relocated to NTSB offices in Washington, D.C. The investigation could take as long as 18 months, officials said.