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ATHENS, Ga. – More than 5,500 graduates will say goodbye to classmates, professors and the University of Georgia as they accept their degrees and begin their lives after college. But one student, sister, daughter, will not get the chance to wear her cap and gown.
Early Friday morning, the unthinkable happened to 19-year-old Bridget Thompson, after she was seen driving on the wrong side of GA-10.
911 calls started flooding Oconee County dispatchers, indicating a chaotic scene on a dark desolate roadway at 3:50 a.m.
Witnesses, who called 911 in rapid succession, said that there was a car in a ditch and a pedestrian walking along the highway, away from the crash and towards GA-15, east of the intersection on the GA-10 Inner Loop, yelling for help.
As a Georgia State Patrol trooper responded to the scene, he looked for the reported driver.
He saw a Ford F-250 pick-up truck on the right shoulder of the GA-10 Outer Loop, between mile marker 3 and exit 4 and another truck in the ditch.
Not far from the Ford truck, he saw Thompson in the roadway, lying across both lanes of the GA-10.
She was dead.
The driver of the truck on the shoulder was a 56-year-old man from Lexington, Ga. He told the trooper he was traveling in the right lane of the GA-10 Outer Loop when Thompson walked into the roadway.
He said that the highway was dim and that he did not see her until it was too late. He was not injured in the crash.
According to the GSP, Thompson, of Grayson, Ga., and a student at the University of Georgia was traveling the wrong way on GA-10 and crashed into the ditch. After crashing her vehicle, the GSP said, she left the scene, walking along the highway, possibly looking for assistance.
Here’s what happened according to the 911 calls, beginning just before 4 a.m.
The first 911 call came into the dispatch center, alerting them to a car driving the wrong way on the GA-10 Loop, nearby exit 1 for GA-316.
“There’s a car going down bypass the wrong way,” a woman said to the Oconee County dispatch operator.
Dispatch: “What area of the bypass? You mean the 10 Loop?”
“I just got off at the… um… I’m going to work at Walmart and it passed me flying,” she said about the vehicle that was driving on the wrong side of the road.
Dispatch: “So, it passed you on the Inner Loop or the Outer Loop? On the Inner Loop towards Clark County?”
Dispatch: “What type of vehicle was it?”
“I have no idea. It was flying,” she said.
Dispatch to deputies: “Be on the lookout for a wrong-way driver… Be advised the vehicle was flying down the roadway.”
Situated under the exit 1 sign, the driver of a gray Honda Civic has pulled over and punched her hazard lights on. She told the dispatcher that she has started to look for the person she saw walking in the roadway.
“There’s a wreck out here on, uh, the Atlanta-Monroe exit, 1 mile marker. I seen somebody walking in the road but now I can’t find ‘em. But the car’s in the ditch,” she said to the 911 operator.
Dispatch: “OK, what kind of car is in the ditch?”
“Honey, it’s so dark, um…”
Dispatch: “You saw somebody walking?”
“I can’t find them. Yes, mam. I haven’t looked in the car. It’s dark,” she replied.
Dispatch: “OK, are you still on the side of the road or are you driving down the road.”
“No, mam. I’m on the side of the road trying to find who’s walking in the road.”
The dispatcher advises deputies of the caller, “Be advised she has her flashers on … she saw a person out on the…”
“I mean, I about hit her,” the caller said, interrupting the operator.
Dispatch: “You can’t see them, at all?
“No, I can’t find them. They’re not at the car. They were like, hollering, ‘Help!’ Like I said, [and] I almost hit them.”
Dispatch: “But he didn’t wreck with anyone else? He just wrecked by himself?”
“Honey, I don’t know. I hadn’t looked in the car. It’s so dark. I just called 911 to get somebody out here to help… no, mam. It’s just one vehicle. The car’s like, turned around going the other way.”
As the police begin to arrive on the scene, an Uber driver called 911.
“Hey, I’m an Uber driver coming on the Loop. I just saw a car that… looks like in a ditch.”
Dispatch: “We’ve got units already out there. Do you see the units out there? Or are you already passed them?”
“I just passed by it, but there’s also a, um, a pedestrian walking on the other side of the road—just out there by themselves. I don’t know if they were part of the accident or not,” the Uber driver, who identified himself as Caleb, said. “Pedestrian was on the shoulder really close to the road, walking the other way—near the accident but kind of away from it, on the other side of the road.”
Dispatch: “Could you tell if they were male or female?”
“I couldn’t tell. I just tried not to hit them,” he told the operator.
Oconee County deputies and the GSP is dispatched to the scene.
“Looks like we have one pedestrian hit now. Enroll EMS.”
Thompson’s Twitter page simply says: “Maybe if I was simple in the mind everything would be fine.”
The graduate of Grayson High School was anything but simple in the mind. At 19, she was already a senior at UGA, with a double major in Spanish and microbiology.
Her older sister, Brittany Thompson said that her sister, who would have turned 20 on June 21, was fun-loving, responsible, headstrong and “stuck in her values.”
Bridget's career goals were close at hand. In fact, she had recently taken the Dental Admission Test (DAT) to become a dentist, Brittany said, and scored in the 90th percentile.
She was a “prodigy,” her sister said.
A UGA issued a statement Friday morning:
“The University of Georgia community mourns the tragic death of Bridget Thompson. Our thoughts and prayers are with Bridget's family and friends.”