Effingham sheriff’s deputies, along with the Georgia State Patrol, are investigating what apparently began as a dispute involving gunfire and then resulted in a car crash Sunday night that proved fatal for the driver.
Columbus Jernigan, 20, of Ellabell, was killed in the wreck on Old Augusta Road South in Rincon on Sunday evening after getting into an altercation with another man and leaving in his vehicle, according to reports.
Sheriff’s deputies received reports of shots fired at a nearby apartment complex before responding to the scene of the one-vehicle accident. At approximately 7:30 p.m. Sunday, deputies arrived at the scene of the accident to find a 2005 Ford Mustang that had suffered extensive damage after hitting a tree.
State troopers said the automobile had been traveling at a high rate of speed approaching a sharp curve and drove off the roadway over 390 feet before striking the tree, killing the driver. They said he had not been wearing a seatbelt at the time and speculated that a seat belt might have saved his life.
Jernigan was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police are still interviewing witnesses who reported that Jernigan had been involved in a verbal altercation with another individual who has not yet been named. It was determined that shots were fired prior to Jernigan fleeing the scene.
Sheriff’s investigators have recovered two firearms, one of which was in the automobile Jernigan was driving.
Jernigan’s body has been sent to the GBI crime lab in Savannah for an autopsy. No charges have been filed yet.