It was daylight and clear weather at 4:40 p.m.Saturday when the Rev. Joseph Roberson, 57, was traveling westbound on Poor Robin Road, said Georgia State Patrol Sgt. Ben Forehand.
A yellow sign saying "Stop Ahead" was still in place, but the stop sign at Georgia Highway 21 was lying on the ground, the trooper said.
The Rev. Roberson drove past the downed sign in his 2009 Honda Accord, across the northbound lanes of Highway 21 and into the southbound lanes, where a southbound tractor trailer driven by a Sylvania man struck his car in the passenger side.
The truck, a 1998 Freightliner, was carrying 47,000 pounds of paper in its box.
"There's no way he could have stopped," Sgt. Forehand said. "It's like trying to stop a train."
The truck driver was not injured in the accident.
Sg.t Forehand said the Rev. Roberson didn't stop when he reached the divided highway.
"The truck driver saw a white blur," he said.
The stop sign was in place earlier in the day, but apparently was knocked down sometime during the day Saturday, said Screven County Sheriff Mike Kile.
The sheriff said he thinks, based on the way the sign and tire tracks looked, that the sign was knocked down by a logging truck.
The Rev. Roberson had been appointed district superintendent in June of the Statesboro district of the South Georgia United Methodist Conference. He oversaw about 80 churches in the area.
Before moving to Statesboro, the Rev. Roberson was pastor of South Columbus United Methodist Church in Columbus, Ga., for 15 years. He also was on the Muscogee County School Board in Columbus.
Funeral and memorials
A funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Luke UMC, at 1104 Second Ave., in Columbus.
Burial will be at 1 p.m. Monday in Waynesboro. Memorials may be made to the South Columbus UMC Building Fund. Expressions of concern may be sent to the family at 3010 Peyton Drive in Columbus, 31903.