ATHENS, Ga. -- A 53-year-old man driving under the influence of drugs Tuesday night left a trail of destruction from Jackson County to Athens.
Authorities said Matthew Kerry Gossett intentionally crashed his pickup truck into 10 other vehicles in both counties, causing one car to overturn.
However, no one was seriously injured, officials said.
“It could have been a whole lot worse with several cars getting flipped over or pedestrians being hit,” said Georgia State Patrol Trooper Joseph Tucker, who investigated three of the wrecks that Gossett caused.
“It is very fortunate that no one got killed or seriously injured,” the trooper said.
The incident started in Nicholson, where Gossett struck a lamp post at the city’s community center, drove through the parking lot and crashed into a parked car, then drove across the street and into a cemetery, according to a Jackson County sheriff’s report.
The man then drove onto nearby U.S. Highway 441, headed south toward Athens and from behind struck a tractor trailer and a passenger car, officials said. Tucker said Gossett’s truck sideswiped some oncoming cars when he swerved into their lanes, causing one car to roll over.
More cars were struck after the pickup crossed over the county line into Athens.
Athens-Clarke County police said the pickup rear-ended a Hummer near the Athens Perimeter, striking it four or five times from behind.
The Hummer’s driver said “he felt his vehicle being pushed and heard possible stripping of the gears in his transmission,” according to an accident report.
After striking the Hummer, the pick-up truck drove around that vehicle and struck other vehicles.
Following the last crash, a witness saw the pickup turn from Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway onto College Avenue.
Police later found the heavily damaged truck in the vicinity of Pound Street and Boulevard, where the trooper believed it stopped running due to all of the damage it sustained.
Gossett then walked several blocks to Athens Regional Medical Center to seek treatment.
He was arrested at the hospital and taken to the Jackson County Jail, where he was charged with DUI/drugs and multiple counts of leaving the scene of an accident, reckless driving and other moving violations.
Tucker said Gossett had no visible injuries.
The trooper said the man claimed he did not remember any of the crashes and admitted to taking pain pills and muscle relaxers prior to driving Tuesday night.
Athens resident Travis Ingram witnessed some of Gossett’s wild ride and nearly became a victim himself.
Ingram said he was riding in his truck on Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway at about 8:15 p.m. when he saw the damaged pickup barrelling down Commerce Road with smoke coming from its hood.
Ingram at first thought it was someone running from police, and he pulled to the side of the road for his own safety as well as that of his friend and 21-month-old daughter also in the truck.
“When he got about 40 yards away he yanked to the left and came straight toward my driver’s door,” Ingram said. “My buddy said, ‘Go, go,’ and so I floored it and just missed getting hit.”
Ingram said he scraped the side of his truck against a guardrail while avoiding the oncoming pickup.
“Me, my buddy and my daughter could all be dead if I hadn’t moved at the last minute,” Ingram said.
Ingram said that when the pickup stalled near the intersection of Commerce Road and the Athens Perimeter, Gossett got out and approached a stopped car being driven by a woman.
“The passenger got out of the car, I guess to confront him, but then he yelled, ‘Gun’ and got back into the car,” Ingram said. “I didn’t see a gun, and it’s possible (Gossett) might have just said he had one.”
Gossett got back into the pickup and drove away.
The truck Gossett was driving was registered to someone at a Madison County address, police said.
A deputy went there and interviewed a woman with whom Gossett was staying. She said Gossett was suffering from depression because of a divorce he was going through, according to the deputy’s report.
An Athens-Clarke County police accident report listed Gossett’s address as on North Avenue in Athens.