An 80-year-old woman killed Friday afternoon in a Gwinnett County crash was at the end of a funeral procession, according to witnesses.
The woman and an elderly man, who was driving, were in a maroon sedan traveling behind the motorcycle officer assisting with traffic control for the procession, Margi Philbin told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. After watching the procession, Philbin and her husband watched helplessly as a pickup truck slammed into the sedan, killing the woman on impact.
“It’s not like he (the elderly man) was way behind and ran the red light to catch up. He was right behind the officer,” Philbin said. “It was obvious to us they were part of the funeral procession. The driver in the truck clearly did not see the car in the intersection until 10 feet before he hit it.”
The woman was identified late Friday as Nira Patterson, according to Ted Bailey with the Gwinnett County Medical Examiner’s Office. Address records show Patterson lived in Cumming. The name of the man Patterson was traveling with was not released.
The wreck happened shortly before 3 p.m. at the intersection of Peachtree Industrial Boulevard at South Waterworks Road, according to Cpl. Jake Smith. The intersection was temporarily closed during the investigation.
An off-duty officer, assisting with traffic control for a funeral procession, reported the crash to emergency officials, Smith said.
After watching the crash, Philbin and her husband, Brian, of Alpharetta, pulled into the median and ran to the red car to help. The Philbins were the first to reach the couple, Margi Philbin said. As her husband tried to calm the injured man behind the wheel, Margi Philbin said she checked for any vital signs from the woman in the passenger seat.
There were none.
“We have a strong suspicion she broke her neck on impact,” Margi Philbin said.
Philbin said she saw a funeral program on the backseat of the car, which had extensive damage. The car’s driver was seriously injured in the crash, according to police.
Despite his injuries, the man repeatedly called the woman’s name in the minutes after the crash, Margi Philbin said.
“The whole time, he’s holding her hand and trying to get her to answer him,” Philbin said. “It was heartbreaking. It was clear he loved her.”
The wreck remains under investigation, according to police. Drugs and alcohol are not believed to be factors in the crash.