By Sara Belsole
COLUMBUS, GA - 50-year-old Loretta Williams was walking with three others on this sidewalk along Steam Mill Road around 6 a.m. Saturday morning.
The group was approaching the Peters Chapel AME Church when a Muscogee County School District vehicle ran off the road and onto the sidewalk, striking the group.
Police say the worker was an on-duty security employee for the school district.
One of the walkers says he and another walker in the back of the pack were unharmed, but Williams and the other 51-year-old walker were transported to the hospital unconscious.
"I came to hear the yelling of help and when I came down to the place I just couldn't believe it," David Whitten says.
Williams was pronounced dead at the Medical Center. Witnesses say the other walker is set to be transported to a spine center in Atlanta sometime this week.
"She was a great lady, respectful and I just enjoyed being with her," Whitten says.
Friends say Williams was a member of a close-knit walking group that walked almost daily. They say the Steam Mill Road Sidewalk was part of their normal route.
"We walk, some of us do jogging, we know each other, we talk to each other," Whitten, who has been walking in the group for a decade, says.
He says the hill on the Steam Mill Road sidewalk offers a more challenging route than the trail at Shirley Winston Park.
"If you walk from there down here and back that is a mile and a half, and that is a challenge for everybody," Whitten says.
Despite Saturday's accident, Whitten says he was back out walking the sidewalk Tuesday morning. "It's basically a safe road. We are aware that cars do come down and come down kind of fast," he says.
Because they walk in the early morning hours, Whitten says the group usually wears reflective vests, but he says drivers need to take more responsibility.
"If drivers get distracted they will hit somebody and I would not blame it on the lack of safe wear, you should be safe walking anywhere in Columbus. If this was not a sidewalk, I could understand that. But it's a sidewalk and that's what it is meant for, for people to walk on it," Whitten says.
Police reports say charges are pending against the 45-year-old driver. The School District says the case is under investigation and the driver is still employed by the district.
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