Army veteran tried to free Georgia middle school teacher killed in crash

Credit: Cedartown Middle School

Credit: Cedartown Middle School

Dyjuan Clark was stopped at a red light when he heard a loud boom. He quickly looked to his left, where he saw an SUV had slammed into a Honda Accord.

Clark knew immediately he had to help, he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Friday. He called 911 and got out of his truck. He tried to help the driver inside the sedan, but his injuries were too severe.

“Let’s get this man out,” Clark remembers telling others who had stopped.

Others seemed too distraught to approach the smashed sedan, but Clark knew time was critical. One minute, he was driving through Polk County while returning to Atlanta following a delivery. Suddenly, he was once again called into duty, just months after leaving the U.S. Army, which he said had prepared him for horrific sights.

Credit: Polk County school district

Credit: Polk County school district

“His door was smashed into his body,” Clark said. “I couldn’t even open the door on his side.”

Moments later, emergency responders arrived and freed the driver, later identified as 57-year-old David Brown. The beloved Cedartown Middle School teacher died from his injuries at a hospital after the Tuesday afternoon crash.

According to the Georgia State Patrol, a 21-year-old woman was distracted when she ran a red light while driving north on U.S. 27 approaching the intersection with Collard Valley Road. Jamie Chavez-Lopez crashed into Brown’s Honda as he attempted to drive through the intersection, according to investigators.

Chavez-Lopez told troopers “she thought the traffic light was green for her and that (Brown’s vehicle) pulled out in front of her,” the crash report states. But witnesses, including Clark, told investigators the light had been red for Chavez-Lopez. Brown was the driver with the green light, according to the state patrol.

Chavez-Lopez was arrested and charged with second-degree vehicular homicide, failure to obey a traffic control device and failing to exercise due care, all misdemeanors. She was booked into the Polk County jail and later released on $6,000 bond, booking records show.

News of Clark’s death shocked the Cedartown community, where he had served as a social studies teacher.

“David was one of my best friends and helped me last year when I was a student teacher,” a colleague posted on the Polk County schools Facebook page. “He was a passionate teacher that came to work to teach students and help them have a brighter future. He was a remarkable man and a passionate kuni kuni farmer as well. I know he touched my life as well as the life of many students and people around him.”

Visitation for Brown will be held Feb. 25 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Almon Funeral Home in Carrollton. The service will follow at 1 p.m. in the funeral home’s chapel.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested any donations be made in Brown’s honor to Cedartown Middle School.