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Deputies, troopers probe Sunday fatal accident
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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 on Sunday evening after getting into an altercation with another man, according to reports.

Sheriff’s deputies received reports of shots fired at an apartment complex on Old Augusta Road, South, 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 off Old Augusta Road. The Mustang had been traveling northbound and the accident took place about half-mile south of Fort Howard Road.

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.