The intersection of John Pitts Road and Pine Tree Road in Bay County has become a small memorial for four Ohio softball players.
The men were part of the Extreme Associates softball team out of Columbus, OH. They were in Bay County this weekend to play in the softball world series at H.G. Harders Recreational Complex.
Five of the team members left the complex in a mini-van shortly after midnight Saturday morning. When they got to the intersection, a pick-up truck slammed into the side of their vehicle.
The team’s pitcher was driving right behind them when the crash happened.
“I got out. Craig was out of the car yelling and screaming for me,” Chris Kidd told our ABC Affiliate in Columbus.
Craig Jackson, 31, who was driving the minivan is now back home in Ohio and is the only survivor from his vehicle.
His four passengers and teammates were not as fortunate. Anthony Gouge, 30, and Eric Young, 25, died at the scene. Gouge’s 29-year old brother William and Josh Martin, 33, died later at Bay Medical Sacred Heart.
The real tragedy, according to state troopers, is that this could have been avoided. They said the pick-up driver Cody Shirah, 21, of Panama City purposely ran through the stop sign at the intersection.
“He had just previously, within a few minutes, had been involved in a crash on Highway 231 in which he left the scene and was fleeing from there when he had the second crash,” Lt. Dave Brown said.
After hitting the minivan, Shirah’s truck slammed into a utility pole.
The crash is under investigation and charges are pending alcohol toxicology results, but that’s little consolation to the families of the victims.
“Our lives will never be the same again. Our family will never be the same again,” a team family member said.
“If you get in a minor crash, be responsible for your actions, and stop and call law enforcement and make a report then. It’s not worth it to flee from a minor situation and make it much worse,” Lt. Brown said.
Shirah suffered serious injuries in the crash. His passenger Kristun Tullier, 21, of Panama City was treated for serious injuries at the hospital and then released.
Shirah was arrested and charged with driving without a license involving death/injury and negligent manslaughter involving a motor vehicle. Troopers say more charges are pending.