Police look for answers in accident that killed woman, crippled I-285

A 911 caller reported a possible animal blocking several lanes of I-285 shortly after 6 a.m. Thursday, according to Sandy Springs police. But authorities arrived, they found a human body that was unrecognizable after being hit by multiple vehicles, Sgt. Ron Momon said Thursday afternoon.

Investigators aren’t sure why 53-year-old Gayla Joyce Walker, of Dunwoody, apparently was walking on I-285 westbound and why none of the drivers who hit her stopped.

All westbound lanes of I-285 near Roswell Road were closed at 6:35 a.m. and remained blocked for nearly three hours, causing a major traffic jam during the morning commute. Police had to shut them down, Momon said, because numerous vehicles had struck Walker and parts of her body were scattered across several lanes of the road.

“We’re required to do a thorough investigation,” he said. “We had no choice.”

He said a supervisor on duty made the decision to close the road and notified the state DOT and other local agencies.

One lane reopened at 8:42 a.m., Momon said. The remaining lanes opened back up at 9:42 a.m.

Many drivers were stuck for hours behind the investigation as police worked to determine what happened.

Police believe Walker was initially struck by a large vehicle, possibly an 18-wheeler, that kept on going.

Early Thursday evening, police identified a possible vehicle involved in the accident. Investigators are looking for a white pickup truck, possibly with a camper shell on the bed, Momon said. No information is available regarding a make or model of the vehicle.

Police are asking that anyone who saw something in the road or thinks they hit the woman to contact Crime Stoppers Atlanta at 404-577-TIPS or 404-577-8477. Tipsters can remain anonymous and are eligible for a cash reward. Tips also can be made online by visiting www.crimestoppersatlanta.org or by texting CSA with the tip info to CRIMES (274637).

In addition to the traffic problems on I-285, authorities also closed the ramps from Ga. 400 northbound and southbound to I-285 westbound for a couple of hours, according to the WSB Radio traffic center, causing major delays on Ga. 400.

Westbound traffic on the top-end Perimeter was backed up more than 7 miles to beyond Spaghetti Junction, while the eastbound traffic jam caused by onlookers stretched more than 5 miles to I-75.

Kamika Clemons was one of the thousands of motorists caught in the massive traffic jam.

Clemons, who lives in Lithonia, said she had been stuck “in this mess for a couple of hours now.

“I listened to the radio and complained and talked to my friends and texted my boss,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Clemons said the worst part was, “not knowing what was going on and trying to figure out what was going on.”

Gretchen Stringer, a 22-year-old from Johns Creek, said drivers were more harried than normal because of delays from the accident.

“People were driving crazy because they were late for work,” she said.

While on the way to work, Stringer was involved in a four-car accident around 9:45 a.m. on I-85 southbound near Chamblee Tucker Road.

— Staff photographer John Spink contributed to this report.

PHOTOS FROM THE SCENE

VIDEOS: MOTORISTS STUCK

REACTIONS FROM SOCIAL MEDIA

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

Related Stories