Heavy rains at the end of December 2018 continuing into January 2019 ushered in a wet New Year in Wayne County, causing the Tennessee River to reach flood levels and warranting the evacuation of homes and campers in areas close to the rising waters. The river city of Clifton, along with campgrounds and areas outside of Clifton and along the Beech Creek tributary, saw significant damage from the flood waters. The river officially crested at 372.08 feet on January 4th, and the water finally began to recede.
As Tennesseans rang in the New Year, new laws also went into effect on January 1st, 2019. A new immigration law that took effect last year prohibits local and state governmental entities from adopting “Sanctuary City” policies. A new law concerning opioids requires any establishment or entity which prescribes, dispenses, or handles opioids to display a sign instructing citizens to call a toll-free hotline if they suspect opioid abuse.
After 21 years of coaching the Wayne County High School Wildcats football team, Coach Rick Rice tendered his resignation in January 2019 and headed to Murfreesboro to be the first head coach for the Class 6A Rockvale Rockets. Coach Rice left behind an impressive coaching record of 203-123 at WCHS, and 18 straight years of playoff football. Assistant Coach Cary Crews was named as the new Head Coach of the Wildcats after Rice’s departure.
On January 10th, South Central Correctional Facility in Clifton was placed on lockdown status following two separate inmate-on-inmate assaults. While responding to the situation, four correctional officers were injured and transported to outside medical facilities for treatment. A total of six inmates also sustained non-life-threatening injuries.
Republican political newcomer Bill Lee took the oath of office as the 50th governor of Tennessee on January 19th, vowing not to solely look to government as the solution to the state’s most pressing challenges. Lee was forced to move the inauguration indoors after forecasts warned of severe rains and thunderstorms, marking the first time the ceremony hadn’t taken place outdoors in front of the Capitol in more than 40 years.
On January 22nd, a domestic incident between Elise Renee Mosca and her husband, James John Donahue, resulted in tragedy when Mosca fatally shot Donahue at their residence on Suckstem Branch Road in northern Wayne County. Mosca was charged with 2nd degree murder, but has not yet been tried for the crime.
Eric Gough, age 39, of Collinwood was tragically killed on Thursday, January 24th when a load of wooden cross ties slid off a log trailer and crushed his vehicle. Gough was traveling on Highway 13 near Highland Loop when a tractor trailer attempted to turn onto the highway and lost the load of cross ties.
An automobile crash resulted in the death of a young Wayne County lady in the early morning hours of January 30th. Alisha Risner, age 31, of Collinwood was killed, and her passenger, Krysten Mitchell, age 28, of Waynesboro was critically injured. The wreck happened on Big Cypress Road in the south part of the county.
The Collinwood High School Marching Band had the honor of marching in the Disney Parade at Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida on February 6th, 2019. It was a very exciting and memorable experience for the band members and parents alike. The parade went down Main Street in the Magic Kingdom area of the park. The CHS Band was the featured high school band in the parade that day, which also featured Disney floats and characters.
Volunteers from 61 counties were honored at the Eleventh Annual Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards ceremony in Franklin on February 10th, 2019. One youth and one adult volunteer were selected from participating counties to receive this prestigious award. Nominees were judged based on the community’s need of the volunteer service performed, initiative taken to perform the service, creativity used to solve a community problem and impact of the volunteer service on the community. Susan Moore Myers was named Wayne County Adult Honoree, and EllieGrace Gipson was named Wayne County Youth Honoree. Both ladies have devoted many hours to volunteer activities and projects in our county.
Kurtlyn Holt, a young lady from Collinwood who was involved in a terrible auto accident in November of 2018, was able to return home for the first time since her accident on February 11th. People were lined up and down the streets of Collinwood in the rain to welcome this courageous young lady and her family home.
The mighty Tennessee River unleashed her fury once again over the last week of February, with historic flooding of epic proportions causing devastation in Wayne County and surrounding counties as well. Longtime Clifton residents said that they could not ever remember flood waters being that high in the city and surrounding areas. Although major floods have caused damage in the county before, the wettest February in recorded history in our state gave all the water nowhere else to go but out of the river’s banks and into streets, homes, and properties. The rain also caused normally docile creeks and streams to overflow their banks in other parts of the county, damaging bridges and making roads impassable at times. The river at Clifton crested at 385.44 feet on February 26th, at which time the flood waters slowly but surely began to recede.
Wayne County lost a 6th District County Commissioner and Highway Department employee when James R. Staggs passed away on Thursday, March 14th, 2019 following a motor vehicle accident believed to have been caused by a medical emergency. Staggs was traveling on Piney Road in Cypress Inn when his vehicle went off the roadway and struck a tree. Members of Mr. Staggs’ family stated that it was believed that Staggs suffered a heart attack while driving, causing the tragic accident that followed. Mr. Staggs’ wife, Kathryn, was later appointed to serve the remainder of his term on the Wayne County Commission.
On Friday, March 15th, 2019, the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, along with Clifton, Collinwood, and Waynesboro Police Departments, jointly served Wayne County Grand Jury indictments after a months-long cooperative illegal substance sales investigation. During the service of the indictments, officers working together also served numerous search warrants that resulted in additional charges and arrests. All agencies working together throughout the investigation helped to serve the indictments that led to fourteen arrests on methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia charges.
A community in Wayne County came together once again in March to support and encourage a family who had faced a major challenge in their lives. Andrew Newborn, a young man from Collinwood, was severely burned on December 31st, 2018, when a candle he was holding caught his shirt on fire, causing second and third degree burns to 45% of his body. His mother, Becky Newborn, also sustained second degree burns to her hands as she tried to put out the flames. Andrew spent 2 ½ months at UAB and at a rehab facility in Memphis before finally being released to come home on March 26th. Family, friends, and well-wishers lined the streets of Collinwood to welcome Andrew home. Andrew, who is a huge fan of the Dukes of Hazzard, was able to ride home with his family in the “General Lee” car, fulfilling a long-time dream for the special young man.
The Wayne County Sheriff’s Office made two arrests at the end of March following an investigation into multiple incidents of vandalism to the Salem and Mt. Hope cemeteries in the northern section of Wayne County. On Friday, March 29th, 2019, investigators were able to develop information and obtain arrest warrants for Dominic Alexander Dickey, age 20, and Jaymin Tyler Wren, age 19, both of Waynesboro. Both were charged with multiple offenses of Vandalism and Desecration of a Burial.
Waynesboro lost a dedicated Dixie Youth baseball coach, WMS basketball coach, and beloved member of the community in April of 2019 with the passing of Jason Camfield. Jason was well known in the Wayne County community for his volunteer coaching of young people and his many years of employment at the Wayne County Bank. Jason was laid to rest on April 6th, 2019.
A horrific single-vehicle accident near Collinwood on Friday, April 19th claimed the life of Collinwood High School sophomore Ashtin Steve Grimes, age 16. The vehicle Grimes was driving on Catawba Road hydroplaned on the wet roadway, struck a tree, overturned, and caught fire. Grimes was tragically killed in the accident, while two passengers in the vehicle suffered only minor injuries.
A motor vehicle crash involving a passenger vehicle and an 18-wheeler on Saturday, April 27th critically injured a 4-month-old baby, Zander Horton, who lovingly became known as “Baby Z.” The crash occurred on Highway 64 East when the Jeep Cherokee driven by Baby Z’s mother, Cayla Horton, was struck from the rear by an 18-wheeler. Baby Z was buckled into his carseat when the crash happened, but his mom managed to unbuckle him and crawl with him out of the Jeep’s rear window despite having serious cuts and abrasions herself. Baby Z was transported to Vanderbilt Hospital to be treated for a traumatic brain injury, and was released from the hospital and able to come back home with his family on May 25th.
The Wayne County Special Olympics were held at Waynesboro Middle School on May 3rd, 2019. It was a wonderful, fun-filled day for all. The athletes displayed courage, strength, and good sportsmanship throughout the day. They were cheered on by students from all over the county, and the CHS band provided musical entertainment for everyone. Kaitlin Banks was awarded the James Harper Courage Award for 2019.
A Waynesboro man was arrested in May following an indictment handed down from the Davidson County Grand Jury on charges of first-degree murder and especially aggravated kidnapping. Gerry Neil Weatherby, age 45, was relatively well-known around Wayne County as a handyman, having lived here for the past several years. He was charged with the murder of a Nashville resident, Daniel Shields, whose body was found in his Nashville home on July 10th, 2018.
A brief but violent windstorm blew through Waynesboro on Wednesday, June 12th, leaving behind downed trees and power lines…and several shocked homeowners! The rain came down hard, accompanied by a little bit of thunder and lightning, but the winds that followed were what caused all the damage in a matter of minutes. Most of the damage was within the Main Street and South High Street areas of Waynesboro, with some damage on the side streets off Main Street. No warnings were issued by the National Weather Service ahead of the storm.
Sheriff Shane Fisher issued an alert during the first week of June 2019 to let the public and local businesses know that there were counterfeit $100 bills circulating in Wayne County. Several fake bills were reported at local businesses, and two arrests were made by the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office later in the month for passing counterfeit $100 bills.
On Friday night, June 14th, a young Waynesboro man was critically injured in a motorcycle wreck in the Simmons Branch area outside of Waynesboro. Micah Brantley, age 27, was driving his late father’s Harley Davidson motorcycle when he lost control in loose gravel and was thrown into a creek. He was trapped underwater until two young men rescued him, and ultimately saved him from death by drowning. Micah was flown to Vanderbilt for treatment of serious injuries including broken bones, lacerations, a collapsed lung, and a brain bleed. After several weeks in the hospital, he was able to return home to continue his recovery.
Be sure to watch for a “look back” at the second half of 2019 in next week’s edition of The News!