By Kim Lewicki, Highlands Newspaper
In the wee hours of Thursday, Oct. 19, residents in the vicinity of Satulah Ridge and Wilson roads were awakened by the sounds of an accident.
At about 1 a.m., Highlands Fire & Rescue, the Highlands Police Department and Macon County EMS responded to a call of an accident when a vehicle traveling above the posted speed limit on Satulah Ridge Road ran off the roadway, struck a tree and proceeded to Wilson Road where it came to rest.
According to Police Chief Andrea Holland, five people were in the vehicle. Two individuals were taken to area hospitals, and one passenger was airlifted for medical treatment. The driver of the vehicle, Steijn Pieter Drijver, 19, and another passenger were uninjured.
Officers on the scene determined through an investigation that Drijver was impaired.
“We take these cases very seriously and are dedicated to the safety of our residents and visitors. We commend the Highlands Fire and Rescue and Macon County EMS’s quick response,” said Holland.
HF&R Chief Ryan Gearhart said the department was dispatched to the scene of a motor vehicle accident with unknown injuries or number of occupants at the intersection of Satulah Ridge and Wilson Road intersection.
“Upon our arrival, and after talking with Highlands PD officers, it was determined that there were three people injured, with two people trapped in the front seat, unable to get the door open.
“HF&R units assisted Macon County EMS to remove one male patient from the rear seat, and then opened the front door with the jaws-of-life.
“HF&R units then assisted the EMS crew to get the two people (1 male, 1 female) out of the front seat. “Three people were transported to area medical facilities – two by ground to Harris Regional in Sylva and one by air to Greenville, SC via Lifenet 10 Medivac,” he said.
Gearhart said Macon County EMS used both ambulances from the Highlands base and one from Franklin, as well as one from Glenville-Cashiers Rescue.
“It was a critical joint effort between multiple agencies and we appreciate each of them and what they do for, and with us for our community,” said Gearhart.
The Highlands Police Department charged Steijn Pieter Drijver, 19, with Driving While Impaired, 2 Felony Serious Injury by Vehicle counts, and Reckless Driving-Wanton Disregard.
On Friday, Oct. 20, an agent with the Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) agency assisted with the follow-up investigation.
Through the course of the ALE investigation, special agents verified the driver purchased numerous mixed beverages from 4118 Kitchen + Bar, in Highlands Plaza, Highlands.
The bartender, Ryan Patrick Henry, 41, of Cashiers failed to verify the age of the underage individual. ALE cited Henry for selling alcohol to someone under the age of 21 and one count of allowing violations to occur at an ABC-licensed business.
ALE will submit violation reports to the ABC Commission documenting the investigative findings. The ABC Commission may choose to sanction 4118 Kitchen + Bar through a fine, suspension, or revocation of the business’ ABC permits.
“We would like to thank the ALE for joining our quest to keep Highlands safe,” said Chief Holland.