A suspected DUI driver is being charged with vehicular homicide in a Saturday accident that claimed the lives of a longtime Georgia mayor and the mayor’s wife.
Investigators said William Bryan Abernathy, 50, was the driver of an eastbound Chevrolet pickup truck that crossed the center line on Knox Bridge Highway and struck a westbound Hyundai Santa Fe driven by Emerson mayor Albert “Al” Pallone, 65, according to WXIA-TV.
Pallone’s car then overturned and crossed into the eastbound lane, where it was hit by a GMC Savanna van. Abernathy’s truck also hit a westbound Mazda 3.
Pallone and his wife Camilla “Millie” Pallone, 69, both died at the scene.
Abernathy was being held Wednesday at the Cherokee County Adult Detention Center on charges of DUI, vehicular homicide, serious injury by vehicle and reckless driving, WAGA reported.
Pallone and his wife had lived in Emerson for about 40 years, and he had served the community most of that time. WAGA reported that he spent 23 years on the city council before he was elected mayor.
A council colleague, Vincent Wiley, who is now stepping into the mayor’s role, called the accident “tragic.”
“They were like family to my family, personally, so it’s [really] hard right now,” he told WAGA.
“Christmas is supposed to be a time of love and giving and happiness, and right now it’s not,” he said. “We’re a city of about 1,500 people, and to lose one person, you know, it’s hard. But, to lose two — the mayor and his wife — it’s devastating.”
Wiley told WXIA that the void left by the loss of Pallone “will be massive.”
“It will take some time for this community to recover. But it will be because of his leadership and his presence,” Wiley told the TV station.
“The city, we’re like in a fog right now. We’re so close here. Everybody knows everybody here. So to lose one is a shock. To lose two is a tragedy.”
Pallone joined the Emerson City Council 38 years ago, during Bill Clinton‘s first term. He had presided at the Emerson Christmas festival just days before the crash, WXIA reported.
In a statement posted to the Emerson Facebook page, the Pallone family said they are “heartbroken at the loss of our dad and mom, Al and Millie Pallone. Our parents were servants at heart and loved their family, friends, church, and community. Dad and Mom lived for their children, grandchildren and great grandchild.”
“Dad and Mom’s faith was strong and we are trusting God to carry us through this tragedy. Please keep our family in your prayers.”
Longtime Emerson mayor Albert “Al” Pallone and his wife Camillia were killed in a four-vehicle crash late Saturday afternoon in Cherokee County, according to officials. https://t.co/NkCmsc1fwn
— Atlanta Journal-Constitution (@ajc) December 12, 2022
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp expressed condolences in a Twitter post on Sunday. “Marty, the girls, and I were heartbroken to learn of the tragic death of Mayor Al Pallone and his wife, Camillia, last night,” Kemp wrote.
Marty, the girls, and I were heartbroken to learn of the tragic death of Mayor Al Pallone and his wife, Camillia, last night. They will be deeply missed by their loved ones and the community that they served so well.
Please join us in praying for their family during this time.
— Governor Brian P. Kemp (@GovKemp) December 11, 2022
“They will be deeply missed by their loved ones and the community that they served so well. Please join us in praying for their family during this time.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.