Gwinnett father: All but one had seat restraints in fatal Florida crash

It may be several months before Florida authorities complete a detailed account of a fatal crash that killed four members of a Gwinnett County family, but the father is disputing one of the most troublesome initial findings.

The Florida Highway Patrol report on the Oct. 8 accident says only one of the eight people in the 2002 Chevrolet Tahoe had on a seat belt or was in a child restraint at the time of the early Saturday accident. Six were thrown from the SUV; four of them died.

Kurt George of Tucker, however, insists seven of the eight family members traveling to Miami for a weekend at the beach were in proper restraints when the Tahoe crashed near Ocala.

Over the weekend, George buried his wife, Tiffany Bradshaw George, 30, daughter Kyia George, 7, and son Kaden George, 3, who were ejected from the SUV along with the driver, his son Darrian George, an honors student and basketball player at Norcross High School.

“Everyone had a seat belt on except my wife’s aunt,” George said Tuesday. He was back in Florida to check on the condition of his mother in law, who was also seriously injured in the crash.

“My son had a seat belt on. My wife had a seat belt on. My mother-in-law had her seat belt on, and my kids had their seat belt on,” he said.

“The only one that didn’t have a seat belt on was my wife’s aunt, and she admitted to that. Maybe they [Florida authorities] got it misunderstood with all the commotion going on, but she was the only one that didn’t have a seat belt on, but everyone else had a seat belt on,” the father said.

In its initial report, the Florida Highway Patrol says Darrian, 17, was driving around 3 a.m. on Oct. 8 when he took an evasive action to get back on the roadway, causing the SUV to overturn several times, then rest on its roof.

Darrian and his stepmother died at the scene. Kyia and Kaden died several hours later at a Gainesville hospital. Two others thrown from the vehicle -- the children’s grandmother, Erica Morris, and her granddaughter Jaid Mendosa, 11 -- were seriously injured.

Kurt George, who was in the front passenger seat, and Jacquine Barow, the aunt who George said was the only one without a seat belt, were left in the vehicle after the accident and received only minor injuries.

“When the vehicle ended up upside-down, I was laying on the inside of the roof,” George recalled. “I was out of my seat, but my seat belt was still attached.” He said other seat belts in the vehicle also were still attached.

Over the next several months, the Florida Highway Patrol will carry out a more detailed investigation, according to a spokesman.

“This is only one of two investigation reports that will be conducted,” said Lt. Patrick Riordan, a FHP spokesman said. “The traffic homicide investigation will take another 50 to 75 days to complete.”

According to Florida law, the driver, front passenger and passengers under age 18 must have a safety belt or be in a child restraint device. Children 3 and under must be in a child safety seat; children 4 and above must be in either a child seat or seat belt.

While not addressing the accident involving the Georges specifically, the spokesman said seat belts save lives.

“There is definitely a correlation that seat belts do reduce injuries and death,” Riordan said in an email. “When properly used they reduce [the] chance of death or injury by about 45 percent. In addition, safety belts are very important when you have a rollover crash. If not restrained, bodies get tumbled very violently inside the vehicle or thrown from the vehicle …or partially ejected and crushed as the vehicle rolls.”

George said Tiffany Bradshaw George was looking forward to a career in nursing. His wife had worked hard to get an associate degree as a medical assistant and had landed a job at a Gwinnett County doctor’s office.

The couple met through cousins while living in Brooklyn, N.Y. They eventually moved to Atlanta and were together for 11 years before marrying two years ago.

Family was important the Georges. “Everything we did was family based,” the father said. “Everything you could think about was done as one family.”

The couple’s children were their primary focus, he said. When he formed a trucking company, George named it Darrian, Kaden and Sisters Trucking LLC.

George said Kyia was a sharp second-grader at Nesbit Elementary School in Tucker and loved reading, writing and math. She was also a Daddy’s girl. “She was real close to me,” he said. “Whatever I did, she stuck with me.”

Kaden attended a Gwinnett daycare. “He loved basketball like his older brother Darrian, and he loved trucks,” the father said.

Kurt George said Darrian, a senior at Norcross High, “was always positive.” He had already been offered several basketball scholarships from Division I and Division II colleges, the father said.

George said he is “somewhat trying to get through” the ordeal.