SPRINGFIELD, GA - A dedicated, reliable lawman was to be buried Wednesday, the only Effingham County deputy killed in the line of duty in recent years.
Dennis Wright Sr., 52, was killed about 8 p.m. Friday when his marked patrol car collided with a minivan at the intersection of Jimmy DeLoach Parkway and Benton Boulevard in Pooler.
Deputy Derrick Seckinger, a traffic officer who usually worked the same shifts with Wright, was a passenger in the cruiser. He remained in fair condition at a Savannah hospital Monday, Effingham Capt. Mike Bohannon said.
Wright and Seckinger were on duty at a multi-jurisdictional training session involving area traffic officers when the deadly crash occurred.
"He was very dedicated to his job and what he was doing," said Sgt. Scott Lewis, Wright's supervisor. "He was always looking for better ways of serving the public. That is what he was doing Friday night."
Wright and Seckinger were participating in the South Georgia Traffic Enforcement Conference and met with area lawmen at a restaurant in Pooler. The deputies were en route to a safety checkpoint where they were to join other officers. It was part of their monthly training.
"Working with officers from other departments helps them stay up to date on changes in the law that affect what they are doing," Bohannon said.
As Wright drove east on Jimmy DeLoach Parkway, an oncoming Dodge Caravan driven by Robert J. Simi, 46, of Allenhurst pulled into the path of the Crown Victoria, said Georgia State Patrol Trooper Henry Gilliard. The Caravan was attempting to make a left turn onto Benton.
Wright was killed in the resulting crash. Seckinger and Simi were both taken to a Savannah hospital, authorities said.
Wright was a policeman in Thunderbolt and Pooler before taking the Effingham position two years ago. Wright was a sheriff's investigator, Bohannon said.
"He was a very good investigator, but he liked the patrol division," Bohannon said.
Enjoying his work was evident in Wright's attitude, said Lewis.
"Whenever you needed someone unexpectedly, you could always count on him to come in without notice and do a good job," Lewis said. "He was always reliable, always there when you needed him."
The positive attitude was also reflected in Wright's personality.
"He always loved to cut the fool, to see people laugh, to make them happy," Lewis said.
Wright was the first Effingham deputy killed while on duty in the last two decades.
Lewis and Bohannon said the difficult circumstances Friday night resulted in a show of support from other law enforcement as Effingham officers converged on the scene.
"When I saw the City of Savannah's chief of police come walking up with a container of coffee, it really made an impression," Lewis said.
"Georgia State Patrol troopers, policemen from Pooler, Port Wentworth, Chatham County and officers from all the departments came by to do whatever they could and offer their support," Bohannon said. "I may not have named them all, but we appreciate all their help."
Wright's fellow officers at the sheriff's office were trying to do their part for the fallen deputy's family Monday afternoon.
"Sheriff (Jimmy) McDuffie and Chief Deputy (Richard) Bush have been meeting with the family to be supportive and provide whatever help they can," Bohannon said. "Deputy Wright did everything he could for our sheriff's office and community, so we owe the same to his family."
Funeral arrangements are planned for 11 a.m. Wednesday at the First Baptist Church of Springfield, 1435 Ga. 119 North. Visitation is today from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. at Strickland's Funeral Home, 2460 Ga. 21 near Springfield.
Wright was a native of Lakehurst, N.J., and graduated from Freehold Township Regional High School. In 1990, Wright and his family moved from New Jersey to Clyo, where he worked as a printer. In 1996, he entered the Police Academy at Armstrong Atlantic State University. After graduation, he served as a patrol officer in Thunderbolt and Pooler.
Wright is survived by his father and stepmother, Benjamin G. and Lyn Wright of Savannah; his mother and stepfather, Doris S. and Terrance Weber of Freehold, N.J.; children, Dennis C. Wright Jr. and Amanda of Clyo, Jennifer W. Moore of Richmond Hill, and Noah E. Sikes-Wright of Bloomingdale; two grandsons, Kyle Moore and Brett Moore of Richmond Hill; brothers, Benjamin G. Wright, Jr., Jeffrey K. Wright and Nona, Douglas D. Wright and Darin; sisters, Carol J. Hutchinson and Charles, and Jacqueline B. Guarino and Mario; his fiancée and her children, Patricia Hiers and Austin and Nicole Hiers all of Springfield. Interment will be in Effingham Memorial Gardens.