"It started Christmas Eve night at about 9 p.m., got a call from Gulfport about a fatality on Highway 90 involving a 17-year-old who was drag racing," said Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove. "We had to make notification to the mom and stepdad, and were asked to go notify his real dad, which we did."
As many families were preparing to sleep and wake up the next morning to watch their youngsters unwrap gifts from Santa, Gary Hargrove was investigating the scene of a deadly Christmas Eve crash. The toughest part was delivering the news to the teenage victim's family.
"It's tough anytime, but more so during the holidays, because if you think about it, everything they had planned for Christmas is out the window, and it's not something they're going to forget for the next 20 or 30 years. Every time Christmas comes around, they'll remember the incident. They'll remember me coming to the door and knocking that night," Hargrove said.
Twenty-year-old Erica Childress also died on Christmas Eve, after her SUV hit an 18-wheeler more than a week ago. Hargrove says in the 12 years he has been coroner, this has been the most deadly Christmas season on coast roads he has ever seen.
"Since the wreck on 1-10 involving the young lady, Erica, there have been, I think, four fatalities since then, which would include hers," Hargrove said. "What I ask of the public, is use common sense with the New Year's coming up, New Year's Eve especially. If you're going to drink and drive, we're going to catch you," Hargrove said.
Police will be out in full force for the New Year's holiday. Roadblocks and radar will be set up at various locations.