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Saturday accident claims two lives
Driver had just earned berth in state wrestling tournament
South Effingham High School wrestling coach Tom Onorato talks to his team about the loss of Thomas Medlin, who died after he apparently crossed the center line on Highway 30 Saturday evening and struck another vehicle. The collision killed 75-year-old Julian Finch of Guyton. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

Georgia State Patrol troopers are continuing to investigate a Saturday evening accident the resulted in two deaths.

Thomas Medlin, 17, and Julian Finch, 75, died because of the accident. Finch, from Guyton, died at the scene. Medlin was airlifted to Memorial Health University Medical Center, where he died later Saturday night.

Approximately 50 friends, family and teammates of Medlin gathered around a wooden cross on the side of Highway 30 Sunday afternoon, trying to come to grips with Saturday night’s tragic events and to figure out why it all happened.

“We just appreciate the outpouring of support,” said South Effingham wrestling coach Tom Onorato. “It’s a difficult time. We’re still in shock that Tom’s not with us.”

Medlin was involved in a head-on collision about 7:30 Saturday night, not long after he finished runner-up in the Area 3-AAA traditionals in the 152-pound division. That finish earned him a berth in the upcoming Class AAA state wrestling meet.

Medlin had dropped off teammate Brandon Huggins before getting back on the road. His red Dodge Durango apparently crossed the center line and hit a Pontiac Montero being driven by Finch near the intersection of Highway 30 and Rosewood Drive.

The South Effingham wrestling team went back to its preparations Monday morning for this weekend’s upcoming state meet while keeping Medlin close to their hearts.

“This is one of the biggest steps right now, coming back as a team,” Onorato said, “going back to work and trying to focus on the dream you set for yourself at the beginning of the season and balance it in a respectful manner to someone you love who you lost.”

Zac Nelson, who often trained with Medlin because they are close in weight class, and another teammate spent early Sunday afternoon putting together a cross in Medlin’s honor. He expected to see his teammates gathered at the roadside vigil and was overwhelmed at the number of people who turned out.

“It’s difficult for everybody,” he said.

During Sunday afternoon’s vigil, Medlin’s father asked the crowd to remember that another family is also grieving.

Funeral services have not been set yet, and the Medlins may delay the funeral for their son until the team returns from the state tournament.

“He was just so unselfish,” Onorato said of Tom Medlin. “He was a hard worker. He was everything you wanted a kid in your program to be.”