Monday, October 11, 2010

Driver in Barnes collision dies.

By Alexis Stevens and Ty Tagami
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Cobb County teenager who drove a Porsche head-on into a minivan containing the daughter and two granddaughters of gubernatorial candidate Roy Barnes has died.

Mario D. Zuniga Jr., 17, was pronounced dead at Atlanta Medical Center at 12:22 p.m. Monday as a result of injuries he sustained in the Sunday afternoon crash, said Cobb County police spokesman Officer Joe Hernandez.

Barnes' eldest granddaughter, Lilly Salter, 6, was released from the hospital Sunday evening with cuts to her face, but her 4-year-old sister remained in the hospital Monday for surgery, a spokeswoman for the former governor said.

Ella Salter, 4, underwent surgery at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite on Monday for a broken arm and shoulder, Anna Ruth Williams, Barnes' spokeswoman, told reporters outside the hospital Monday morning. The child was released late Monday afternoon and is recovering at home, Williams said.

Zuniga was driving a black 2002 Porsche Boxster south on Old Mountain Road near Marietta when he struck the front of the 2008 Honda Odyssey driven by Barnes' daughter, Allison Barnes Salter, around 12:40 p.m., Hernandez said.

Salter, of Marietta, was driving north on Old Mountain Road near Greymont Circle, police said. The Porsche crossed into her lane while attempting to negotiate a curve to the right, Hernandez said.

The posted speed limit is 30 mph, but investigators believe Zuniga was traveling faster.

Zuniga, of Kennesaw, had to be extricated from the vehicle before being transported to Atlanta Medical Center, Hernandez said. A 16-year-old passenger, whose name was not released, was transported to WellStar Kennestone Hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries, he said.

Zuniga's father said Morning morning that his son suffered a serious head injury. The elder Zuniga said the passenger was his son's friend and that the boy underwent surgery on his leg and was "doing fine."

Zuniga Jr. is a former student at Mount Paran Christian School, according to David Lowery, a spokesman there. The elder Zuniga said his son was now a home school student. Zuniga said his son was driving his own car and that the crash was "just an unfortunate accident."

"He was just a normal kid who had a bad accident," the father said.

Last month, Zuniga Jr. was arrested by Cobb County police after an officer smelled marijuana coming from the teenager's vehicle at a traffic stop, according to an incident report obtained by the AJC. Zuniga was charged with possessing less than an ounce of marijuana and was also cited for a curfew violation because of his Class D license, according to the report. After his 1:40 a.m. arrest on Sept. 21, Zuniga spent several hours in the Cobb County jail before being released on $800 bond, according to jail records.

The Zuniga family declined to speak Monday afternoon following the teenager's death.

Before Zuniga died, Barnes and his family were wishing the teen a full and speedy recovery.

Salter, 35, was taken to Kennestone and was released Sunday evening.

Williams said Salter was running errands at the time of the crash and that her youngest daughter was not in the vehicle. The two girls were in car seats and the airbags in the Honda deployed, Williams said, adding that police told the family that "lives would have been lost" had the kids been unrestrained.

Salter is an attorney in her father's Marietta law firm.

Williams, who spoke to reporters outside Scottish Rite, said Barnes had put his campaign on hold.

"Roy is focused on his family and therefore we have canceled all campaign events until further notice," Williams said.


Anonymous said...

If the Barnes family was on a bike this young man would still be alive right now.

Anonymous said...

this kids parent is just as dumb as you milton parents buying cars for your kids they cant control

Anonymous said...

Pretty sure his family could just use some prayers right now, not judgement.

Anonymous said...

5:08AM... that is exactly what I came here to say. The person who gave a 17yr old dope head a Porsche should be in jail right now (the father, I assume).

No class warfare here, just simple truth. The idiot parents in Milton and Alpharetta giving their 16yr olds powerful new cars are going to cause the next death.

6:34, I'm sure that you would be saying that if your family was the one that almost lost their lives to this trash.

Tim Enloe said...

I want to be wrong, but such a wreck is going to occur on Bethany, Freemanville, or Birmingham Highway sooner than later due to all the high school traffic speeding on a regular basis. While I hope no one gets hurt, my biggest fear is that a resident living in one of these open road neighborhoods ends up being at the wrong place at the wrong time (checking mail maybe?) and loses their life because of it.

Milton better wise up and impliment a strict plan NOW to make not only these neighborhood nodes safer, but all ORNs. If not, when an innocent ORN resident's death does come due to such negligence and abuse, the city and the guilty party will no doubt end up being sued.

Time for Milton to wake up and start supporting our officers and the jobs they were hired to do (enforcing the law) instead of calling them into the office to be reprimanded every other day for writing tickets for lawbreakers.

Just a refresher, the family whose son was killed on Providence last year is sueing the family of the speeding and drunk driver who lived. Bets, anyone?

Tim Enloe
770 653 0552

Anonymous said...

Tim, I can only disagree with you on one thing. I don't think that it is all high schoolers, in fact, my biggest concern isn't about locals at all.

With the burst of the housing bubble, we got a temporary time-out, but it is only a matter of time before Cherokee and Forsyth continue their aggravated overbuilding to our north. Birmingham, Freemanville, Bethany and Hopewell / Cogburn are not only going to carry the load to the new highschool, they are going to carry the load of thousands of new homes to the north.

Before things get out of control, Milton needs to work a plan to move traffic over to Highway 9 then over to GA400... those are the logical commuter thruways. Things need to be slowed-down in Milton, and we need some infrastructure changes in order to improve things.

We do not want to have an issue similar to Roswell's with Atlanta St, which will likely soon be 5-lane. Can you imagine Cogburn, Hopewell, Freemanville and Birmingham Highway as 5-lane roads? YUCK!

Tim Enloe said...


Good comment and I see your points.

What do you suggest as far as rectifying this problem?

If Milton and others continue to view these roads discussed as "thruways", "cooridors" or "collector roads" instead of the residential nodes that they currently are, it is only a matter of time before the five lanes you speak less of become fact in Milton. Also, if that were to happen, you can expect the land owners in such areas to sell out due to their property being taken for road widening.

Tim Enloe
770 653 0552

Anonymous said...

I think that you have to do three things.

1. Make it unattractive to drive south on the big three.
- More stop signs
- More police presence

2. Make it attractive to get over to Highway 9 by improving Hamby Rd and Birmingham Rd.

3. Proactively negotiate with our neighbors to the north to keep density low. If they do, then perhaps we can help with improvements to make big corridors to move folks over to Hwy 9 where they can get good access to GA 400.

I know that Item 1 in particular will negatively affect Milton citizens who love the current 70mph speed limit on those roads, but I think that they may prefer slowing down rather than having these roads turn into the next Atlanta Street.

What do you think?

Anonymous said...

My prayers are Zuniga Family. No matter the reason it is a very sad day when you lose a child.

Anonymous said...

"Time for Milton to wake up and start supporting our officers and the jobs they were hired to do (enforcing the law) instead of calling them into the office to be reprimanded every other day for writing tickets for lawbreakers."

I couldnt't agree with you more. Our officers are afraid that by doing their jobs, they will lose their job.

The higher-ups are more concerned with image than letting their officers enforce the law. Money talks.

Anonymous said...

What if he bought it himself because he wanted it, maybe he was borrowing it from his parents who knows. How do you people conclude a rich north futon parent indulged their child?? What if they did, their right to do so and their decision to make. Deadly accidents happen in all brands of cars, none are exempt, it doesn't matter. Car makers should make only one brand of car now to save us from ourselves??What's next, we are all told to drive a certain car because the gov has determined they know what is safer for us and our kids than we do? Really? Then put seat belts on school buses! Commercial bus transportation has seat belts. I say the pros out way the cons. We do still have the freedom to choose, even if it's things that are not necessarily the best for us, let the chips fall where they may.

Anonymous said...

Hey 7:06, I don't think that anyone is debating whether or not he had the freedom to be driving that car. It just wasn't a responsible thing for him to be doing.

It is just like you have the freedom to post even though you can't follow basic rules of grammar. You are free to do so, but it negatively impacts everyone who comes in contact with your post.

Anonymous said...

Hey 7:50, I'm not 7:06 but do you really believe your grammar is any better? Of course you do. You live in Milton.

GNR said...

Is there any evidence that supports all these allegations that Milton Police Officers are being reprimanded for writing tickets?

If so, I'd like someone to be held accountable, if not, then stop the gossip already, you're just making their jobs harder if you're leading some idiot to believe they can weasle their way out of a ticket.