A 37-year-old Dacula man was killed on Ga. Highway 316 on Wednesday after being struck by a vehicle just hours after police responded to reports of the same man attempting to walk into the roadway.
Gwinnett police responded to the accident, which occurred near Oak Valley Road in Dacula, shortly after 3 p.m. after receiving several calls from motorists about a pedestrian, who was later identified as Sonfa Turay, “attempting to dart out in front of their vehicles,” an accident report said.
When officers arrived on scene, they found Turay deceased, having been struck by a Flowery Branch man after almost being hit by another driver.
“According to the witness, as he approached, (Turay) darted out in front of his vehicle, causing him to swerve right to narrowly avoiding striking (Turay),” the report said. “The witness said he watched in his rear view mirror as (Turay) moved back onto the grass median. He then watched as vehicle two was approaching, (Turay) darted out in front of vehicle two and was struck.”
The Flowery Branch man told police that as he passed Oak Valley Road, Turay “looked at him and then darted out in front of (his) vehicle” but that he was “unable to brake or steer to avoid (Turay) and ultimately struck the pedestrian.”
Less than three hours earlier, around 12:15 p.m., Gwinnett police received several calls about Turay in the same area on Ga. 316, according to Cpl. Michele Pihera, spokeswoman for the department.
Taylor Garrett, one of the initial 911 callers, told the Daily Post he was driving back from Augusta around noon when he saw Turay on the side of the highway.
“I take 316 through Lawrenceville from Augusta and as I was driving towards Williams Farm Drive, I noticed a guy on the road,” Garrett said. “At first, it looked like he was trying to grab something out of the road, but then I saw that he stepped back after a pickup truck passed. As I got closer, I saw that each time a decent sized pickup truck came by, he would step out into the middle of the lane.”
Garrett said he called 911 and while he was on the phone with dispatch, a Gwinnett police officer and a Dacula Marshal arrived to question Turay.
“I was probably a quarter of a mile behind the Gwinnett officer, and I saw him activate his blue lights and pull over by (Turay,)” Garrett said. “I pulled over a safe distance from the officer, and then the Dacula Marshal came from the other direction and cut across the median and parked by the Gwinnett officer. They patted (Turay) down and then were talking with him.”
Once officers finished speaking with Turay, Garrett said they then came up to him, which is when he told them he had seen Turay trying to walk into the road.
“They asked if he walked into the road or if he stumbled, and because there was no traffic coming, I showed them how he kept walking straight out into the middle of lane,” he said. “I told them (Turay) looked like he was trying to hurt himself.”
Pihera said police took Turay to his home, which was nearby.
Several hours later, however, he was in the same area on Ga. 316.
“I was in my car around 4 p.m., and I heard on the radio a pedestrian had been hit on 316,” Garrett said, “and I was like, ‘I hope it’s not the same person.’”
Following the accident, Turay’s wife told officers her husband had suffered a brain injury in the past year and had an “altered mental state” for the last few months.
It was not immediately known if he was being treated for the injury. The Flowery Branch man is not facing charges as a result of the crash.
This is the second pedestrian-vehicle crash in Gwinnett this year. The other, a suicide, occurred on Interstate-985 less than two weeks ago.
According to the Georgia Department of Transportation, as of Thursday, 65 people have been killed in roadway fatalities in 2018.
Last year, 1,532 people died, down from 1,561 in 2016, the deadliest year since 2008.