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By Tia Lynn Lecorchick managing editor

driver w phoneA nasty one-vehicle car wreck on North Main Street in downtown Madison took down a utility pole and state sign on Friday afternoon, Dec. 12, that resulted in a small, localized power outage from that initially affected 598 customers at 4 p.m. for less than a half hour and then only a handful of customers until all power was restored later that evening. Clay Hanson Lewis, 45, of Buckhead reportedly fell asleep at the wheel of his Jeep Cherokee, veering off the road onto the sidewalk near the intersection of North Main Street and Park Street. Lewis hit a state sign before crashing into a telephone pole, cracking the pole in two places. The impact caused the Jeep Cherokee to flip over, landing completely upside down. Lewis only sustained a laceration to his right arm in what could have been a life-threatening wreck. “He is lucky to be alive,” said Jeremy Hoffman, a Madison police officer at the scene. According to Lieutenant Colin Campbell, officers at the scene administered a field sobriety test to Lewis and determined that he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. “According to him, he fell asleep. There was no signs of him texting while driving or being impaired,” said Campbell. Fulton Pritchett, 18, witnessed the wreck while driving about 20 yards behind Lewis and corroborated Lewis’ account for police. Pritchett was the first on the scene to help Lewis. Pritchett was driving behind Lewis when, suddenly, the Jeep Cherokee veered off to the right side of the road striking the utility pole. The falling power lines and cracked telephone pole almost hit Pritchett’s car as he pulled over to help Lewis. “When he hit the pole, the lines started to fall, and the pole almost landed on top of me. I swerved out the way and one the lines hit the back of my truck,” wrote Pritchett in the police report. When Fulton approached the overturned Jeep Cherokee, he immediately noticed a baby’s carseat in the backseat, fearing an infant may have been involved in the brutal wreck. “It was the first thing I asked him, if there was a baby in the car,” said Pritchett. Thankfully Lewis has been driving alone. A disoriented and upside down Lewis asked Pritchett to cut him out of the car. Pritchett used a pocketknife to cut Lewis free and pulled him through the driver’s side window before police arrived on the scene. According to Pritchett, both he and Lewis were traveling at the approximate speed limit and he never saw Lewis swerve or hit the brakes when the collision occurred. The accident will not cost the city any money in repairs, according to City Manager David Nunn. “We couldn’t fix it even we wanted to,” said Nunn. “We don’t have the equipment or expertise,” said Nunn. Georgia Power finished replacing the damaged pole and installing a new transformer just four hours after the accident occurred. Georgia Power will not release the cost of repairs. According to Linda Gantt, area manager of the Madison branch of Georgia Power, whatever the cost of the damage is, the power outage only affected between four and seven customers on Friday after the accident. Georgia Power has removed the cracked telephone pole and is in the process of installing a new one. But it is yet to be seen if Georgia Power will eat the cost of repairs. “As a company, in most cases, we do bill that to someone who hit the power pole and try to recover the cost,” said Gantt.

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