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Posted on Tue, Apr 13, 2010 : 12:17 p.m.

Saline Mayor Gretchen Driskell and daughter injured in crash after 'barrier came flying at them'

By Nathan Bomey

Saline Mayor Gretchen Driskell and her daughter Marielle were involved in a serious car accident Friday night in Cordele, Ga., on their way back from a spring break mother-daughter trip to Florida.

Marielle, 15, is in intensive care in a Georgia hospital after undergoing an operation to treat a serious foot injury she suffered from the high-speed accident, Saline City Council member Alicia Ping said.

Marielle also has other leg, arm and hip injuries. The mayor has a minor foot or ankle injury.


Saline Mayor Gretchen Driskell

Marielle, who has been active on Facebook since the accident, faces a lengthy period of recovery, people familiar with the accident said. Friends set up a Facebook page to support her.

"She’s really worried about other people worrying about her," Gretchen Driskell said in a brief interview this afternoon. "She’s joking and she’s doing well."

Marielle, a student driver, was driving north on I-75 in Georgia on a stretch where heavy construction narrowed the freeway to two lanes separated by a concrete barrier, Ping said.

A serious five-car crash on the southbound side of the freeway caused a tractor-trailer to slam into the concrete barrier, causing the barrier to hurtle into the Driskells’ vehicle, Ping said.

“The barrier came flying at them,” Ping said. “It wasn’t that it just got pushed over and they hit it. It was moving at them.”

Gretchen Driskell said they had been on the road for about 30 minutes after the trip to Florida, where they camped and visited Disney World.

"We were just driving along, minding our own business and the next thing you know this thing is flying at it us," she said. "It was pretty shocking."

According to a report by WALB-TV:

>State Troopers say the driver of the Jeep driving south on the interstate parked in the right lane near the Georgia Highway 300 exit ramp to read a map around 9:45 Friday night.

>A pick-up truck stopped when it saw the parked car. A delivery truck hit it. Then a tractor trailer hit the delivery truck and ran into the concrete barrier, knocking it into the north bound lane.

>Six cars were involved. Troopers say 15-year old Marielle Louisa Driskell suffered a crushed femur. She was driving north in a van when she hit the barrier. Rescue crews used the Jaws of Life to get her out.

“They’re both in good spirits,” Ping said. “Gretchen was just so happy they were both alive.”

Saline City Council member David Rhoads, who said he had corresponded with Driskell by text message, and Saline City Finance Director Lee Bourgoin said the accident wouldn’t disrupt city business.

Driskell, a Swisher Commerical real estate agent, is widely considered one of the region’s most popular politicians. She's in the midst of her sixth 2-year term as mayor of Saline. She’s also the city’s longest-serving mayor and its first female mayor.

“She’s done an amazing job,” Rhoads said. “We’re all very appreciative of the leadership she’s provided to the community, and I think we are in as good as shape as we are because of her.”

Contact’s Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or or follow him on Twitter. You can also subscribe to Business Review's weekly e-newsletter or the upcoming breaking business news e-newsletter.



Tue, Apr 20, 2010 : 11:23 a.m.

@ Basic Bob: the "young driver" was stopped in a construction zone. There was no place for her to go... All of I-75 through Georgia was at a stop-n-go as construction had just begun; it was the end of spring break for most of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia. I-75 was like a parking lot the entire weekend. Young drivers need to learn how to drive in all kinds of traffic conditions so they get a handle on it and can deal with it on their own. There wasn't anything she could have done differently, and if her mother would have been driving, it could have easily been her in the hospital suffering the injuries. Either way, you can never be prepared for another driver being irresponsible. God bless you, Marielle and Gretchen, and we look forward to having you home.


Tue, Apr 13, 2010 : 11:04 p.m.

I drove that route last Saturday with my family, while returning from Florida...I-75 throughout Georgia was a complete mess. Glad to hear everyone is expected to fully recover.

Basic Bob

Tue, Apr 13, 2010 : 9:11 p.m.

Not to blame the young driver, but I don't see the wisdom of allowing an inexperienced driver to practice driving in the dark on an unfamiliar and busy highway through a construction zone. Only an experienced NASCAR driver would expect to see a flying concrete barrier.


Tue, Apr 13, 2010 : 7 p.m.

Yes I wish them a speedy recovery,I was right behind that accident,traffic was very heavy,and I feel they do not give very much room for traffic to run in they're perspective lanes..It will be the last time I drive to and from Fla. it was insane on that section of wishes hope you both recover soon...

mike from saline

Tue, Apr 13, 2010 : 3:04 p.m.

Saline has been blessed with an incredible string of GREAT Mayors! Former Mayors, George Anderson, and Donald Shelton were two of the best Mayors in the State of Michigan, during there tenure, and helped transform Saline from a sleepy little farming town/bedroom community, to the beautiful, vibrant, well run small city it is today. Mayor Driskel is a continuation of that great tradition, and just may turn out to be the "best of the best". I hope Gretchen and her Daughter have a speedy recovery. The City of Saline needs her.


Tue, Apr 13, 2010 : 1:16 p.m.

I wish them both a speedy recovery...