Hospital, police officials urge greater caution on Parkwood in wake of tragedy

Aug. 31—A loving light of inspiration and family commitment went dark late Friday night on Parkwood Drive in front of Southeast Georgia Health System’s Brunswick hospital.

A nurse at the hospital, Shakerya Brown, 27, embraced her position as a role model to her many younger siblings, nieces and nephews. But a westbound vehicle struck and killed Brown at around 10:30 pm as she walked across the road from an employee parking lot to work at the hospital, Brunswick police said.

“She’s always been a loving, kind and caring person,” said Queistrelle Chipp-Brown, the wife of one of Brown’s uncles, Isaiah Brown. “The family is just devastated. She meant a lot to a lot of people.”

Police said the driver was inebriated and driving without the vehicle’s headlights on when the tragedy occurred.

Brown was flown by helicopter to UF Health hospital in Jacksonville, Fla., where she died, police said.

Initially, the police reported that Brown was crossing Parkwood Drive within a designated crosswalk when the vehicle struck her. Upon further investigation, however, police said Brown was crossing the road just east of the designated crosswalk.

The vehicle’s impact on Brown propelled her into the crosswalk, police said in a clarification issued Monday.

Police arrested Kurt Eugene Batterson, 48, and charged him with first-degree vehicular homicide, DUI less safe, serious injury by vehicle and driving without headlights. The Brunswick man remained Tuesday in the Glynn County Detention Center, held without bond on the vehicular homicide charge, jail records show.

This is not Batterson’s first time behind bars this year on DUI charges.

Camden County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested him on the evening of June 9 after stopping him for allegedly driving 91 mph in a Lexus sedan on Interstate 95, according to a report. Deputies subsequently charged Batterson with DUI and felony possession of methamphetamine and hashish, according to an arrest report.

After the stop, deputies said they located hashish, pot and a glass “meth pipe” containing meth residue, as well as a half-empty bottle of Fireball whiskey and an open can of beer, according to a report.

Batterson was released from the Camden County Jail on June 13 after posting some $19,000 in bond, jail records show.

Friday’s tragedy marked the second serious incident this year involving a hospital employee being struck by a vehicle while crossing Parkwood Drive. A nurse was seriously injured on the night of March 30 after she was struck by a vehicle while crossing Parkwood Drive to the hospital in the same area, police said.

She also was not crossing within a crosswalk, police said.

The driver who struck her was cited for driving on a suspended driver’s license, but he has not been charged in connection with the incident, police said. The man had just pulled out of the hospital and told the police he did not see the woman before he hit her.

The nearest crosswalk in that area is just east of Parkwood Drive and Kemble Avenue. Another designated crosswalk is located at the southeast corner of the hospital grounds, at Parkwood Drive and Hampton Avenue. There is also a stoplight at that intersection.

Pedestrians can push a crossing button on the sidewalk at the crosswalk, which activates a flashing clear light on either side of the road.

Hospital officials are speaking with city officials to discuss ways of improving pedestrian safety in the area, said hospital spokeswoman Laura Young.

“Hospital leadership is focused on the safety of team members, patients, and visitors,” Young said. “It is our utmost concern inside our walls and outside of them. We are actively engaged with the city to identify ways to enhance all pedestrian safety on and throughout our campus.”

Hospital officials would not comment further. Even prior to Friday’s tragedy, however, hospital officials have taken steps internally to remind employees to use the crosswalks and to take care when crossing Parkwood Drive, said Angela Smith, assistant chief of administration with the city police department.

“To our understanding, the hospital has been working with employees prior to this incident reminding them to use the crosswalks,” Smith said.

Police have stepped up traffic obedience efforts along Parkwood Drive since the March incident, Brunswick Police Chief Kevin Jones said.

“We’ve put extra attention on Parkwood,” Jones said. “Even riding (patrol) myself I see folks all the time not using the crosswalks. And it’s a heavily traveled road.”

The department strongly encourages all pedestrians in the city to take advantage of crosswalks, Jones said.

“The crosswalks are there for your safety, so please use them,” Jones said. “It may take a few extra seconds, but we want you to get where you’re going safely.

Still shocked by the loss of a beloved family member, Chipp-Brown referred to Brown in the present tense on Monday night while speaking about her with The News.

A native of Brunswick, Brown grew up the oldest of many siblings from “two sets of families,” she said. Brown also was a doting aunt to many nieces and nephews.

Brown attended nursing school at the College of Coastal Georgia. She realized fully that she served as a role model for those family members, and she committed herself to being a positive influence, Chipp-Brown said.

“I’ve had the privilege of knowing her and watching her grow up since she was 10 years old,” said Chipp-Brown, a teacher at Burroughs Molette Elementary. “She has a big heart and she loves her nephews and nieces. She’s determined to serve as a good example for her siblings. She loves both sets of siblings. And she loves that role as big sister. She walked it and talked it.”

When the school year opened earlier this month, a nephew of Brown’s began attending Chipp-Brown’s kindergarten class. Brown dutifully picked the child up from school when called upon, and occasionally delighted the boy by joining him for lunch in the school cafeteria, Chipp-Brown said.

“She’s just really kind and sweet, very loving,” Chipp-Brown said.

“She had a big heart,” Isaiah Brown said of his niece.

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