You are not immortal

Tragedy has struck our community again.

A Heard County teenager was killed and three Coweta County teens injured, one seriously, in a weekend car wreck.

The death of anyone, especially one in the prime of their life, is tragic. Yet this fatality is even more so because, based on the initial investigation, it did not have to happen. According to the Georgia State Patrol, Brian Shelnutt traveled off and back onto Smokey Road several times before overturning. He and his front seat passenger, Austin Pope of Franklin, were ejected. Pope was killed.

Trooper Ross Buchan said alcohol is believed to have been a factor. He also said neither teen was wearing a seat belt. In essence, the events were the “perfect storm” for a fatality to occur. Driving around at 3 a.m., drinking and not wearing seat belts — what do we expect the outcome to be?

Teenagers have an immortality complex. They are young, with few worries, and the world sits before them waiting for them to conquer it. Many have a hard time understanding the world is not always a nice place, that their actions — good or bad — have consequences.

This newspaper has been criticized in the past for running photos on the front page of car fatalities. Critics say we have no feelings for the family and are making a horrible situation worse. A small minority say we put photos on the front page only to sell newspapers. 

That latter statement is not worthy of response.

But we do want to address the first point. There is not a single reporter or photographer here who ever wants to hear a call go out from 911 for a coroner. We have families, too, and none of us wants to cover the death of another, whether in an accident or a shooting, etc. But that is our job — to cover what goes on in Coweta County.

In almost every vehicular fatality, there are similar causes leading to the tragedy: driving too fast for conditions, alcohol, not wearing seat belts, or some combination of those three. This latest event was no different.

We consciously run photos of vehicular fatalities for one reason — that by doing so, someone will take pause and think before getting behind the wheel again. If that will serve as a wake-up call to at least one teenager, it is worth it.

Our actions have consequences. And our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of this latest tragedy. But it is our hope that through our photos and stories on vehicular fatalities, drivers — especially newer ones — will finally wake up and realize they are not immortal.



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