By Adam Thompson
WATKINSVILLE, Ga. — An Oconee County sheriff's deputy died late Thursday after a car struck him as he directed morning traffic outside Oconee County Primary School.
Patrol Deputy David Gilstrap was hit about 7:25 a.m. while standing in front of the school's Hog Mountain Road entrance, west of Watkinsville, authorities said. He was pronounced dead at 10:25 p.m. at St. Mary's Hospital in Athens after a period on life support, according to Oconee County Coroner John Simpson.
The Georgia State Patrol is investigating the collision.
The car's driver, a 62-year-old Watkinsville woman, has not been charged, pending the end of the investigation, said state patrol Lt. Paul Cosper.
Friends and colleagues gathered Thursday at the hospital in support of Gilstrap, 49, and his family - including his wife, Tammy, who is an executive assistant at the sheriff's office. The two were married this year.
Gilstrap joined the Oconee sheriff's office in 2005 after years as a deputy at the Clarke County Jail.
He reportedly was filling in as a school crossing guard this week.
Gilstrap was wearing a vest and using two cone flashlights while directing traffic, said sheriff's department Chief Deputy Gene Langston.
"He was there where he is every morning, where there's a deputy every morning," Langston said.
Several students saw the collision, and Oconee County School System employees provided counseling Thursday to any students or faculty members who needed it, said Mark Channell, executive director of the school system's student services office.
"We know all the Oconee County Sheriff's Office does for our school system," Channell said. "It's kind of hit home for all of us because we have such a close partnership with the sheriff's office."
School officials early this school year briefly tried a new school-day traffic pattern in the area of Butler's Crossing, where Oconee County Elementary School and Oconee County Middle School also are located.
They quickly returned to the old pattern, however, in which parents dropping students off at the three schools can enter from Hog Mountain Road and Mars Hill Road, said Oconee schools Superintendent John Jackson.
A deputy directs traffic every school day in the morning and afternoon at each intersection, and at the entrance to Oconee County High School, about a mile west on Hog Mountain Road, he said.
Thursday's collision had nothing to do with the traffic pattern, Jackson said.
The driver, who was heading away from Butler's Crossing, would have passed another crossing guard before reaching the primary school where Gilstrap was stationed, he said.
The driver is neither an Oconee County School System employee nor the parent of an Oconee student, Jackson said.
Jackson said that although he had heard Thursday of a possible close call recently involving the same driver and a different deputy, no similar collisions involving a crossing guard were reported to him officially.
Copyright 2008 Athens Banner-Herald