A Columbus native and United States Army war hero was killed last Thursday morning after he lost control of his car and crashed into a small lake near the Lowndes/Monroe county line. Antonio Moore, known to his family as Tony, was driving Southbound on Hwy 45 N. in Hamilton when his 2010 Hyundai Elantra left the roadway on the rocky West shoulder of the highway shortly after 1:10 a.m. The sedan skidded out of control and immediately headed East, then crosses a grassy median before skidding down 100 foot embankment and then launching nose first into a small lake in the Northern section of what locals refer to as the Gravel Pits. Officials on scene said that the car likely “launched” off a steep ridge on the shore of the lake and then went airborne for nearly 25 feet before smashing into the water.
Monroe County Sheriff’s Deputies and emergency responders raced to the scene after receiving a call from a good Samaritan who witnessed the accident and called 911 before making a daring rescue attempt.Gary Helton, a former reserve Monroe County Deputy, told rescuers he was heading North on 45 just as Moore lost control of his car, “I saw it all happen…right in front of me. He was probably doing about 80 MPH…I don’t think he hit the brakes till he hit the grass (the median),” Helton said.
Helton immediately turned his truck around and phoned 911 to get some help, then quickly drove his pickup to a ridge that overlooks the Northern bank of the Lake. Helton tossed aside his shirt and slid down the steep hill and waded into the chilly water (Temperatures that morning were in the mid 50’s). Helton made his way to the front of the partially submerged vehicle, now facing North in the water) and pulled on the front bumper in an attempt to keep the car from sinking further. Despite the frigid water and nearly ten foot deep waters, Helton managed to tread water for nearly 10 minutes.
Lowndes County Sheriffs arrived on scene around 1:25 p.m. and began to assist the Monroe deputies already on scene. Several responders made their way down to the water and attempted to assist Helton.
The car suffered significant damage to the front end, the passenger appeared to be down, the rear seats were also down and the trunk was open.
Helton, who said he was on his way home from a trip to Gulf Shores, said he knew the waters and initially thought the driver might have escaped, “With the way the seats were down and the trunk was open, I was holding out hope he had gotten out while the car was sinking,” Helton told The Packet. Allen Stumph arrived in a Hall’s Wrecker tow truck around 1:40 a.m. and set up next to where Helton had parked his vehicle. Helton, Stumph, and an unidentified Monroe deputy entered the water and scrambled for several minutes to attach the tow chain to the car. After securing the line, the car was pulled about 15 feet to the Northern shoreline and immediately inspected by rescue workers.
After rescue workers were unable to find any trace of the driver, the license plate was radioed in and authorities in Lowndes County were notified that it came back to a Columbus address. Columbus Police were dispatched to Morre’s home at Falcon Lair Apartments, but no one answered the door. Atlas towing arrived on scene shortly after 2 p.m. to assist in the efforts and were closely followed by several boats manned by search and rescue teams from Monroe County. Stumph called in a Rollback wrecker (from Allens’s Towing) to finish pulling the car from the water so a thorough search of the lake could commence.
Just as the car was finally brought up over the West bank of the lake, several members of the victim’s family arrived on scene, including his brother Jonathan and both father, mother and stepfather. Monroe County Chief Deputy Curtis Knight briefed the family on the situation as rescue workers attempted to keep them calm. The vehicle was removed from the lake around 4 p.m, and the assembled rescue crews debated on whether to search the lake then, or wait until daybreak. Shortly before 5 a.m., the team entered the water and began to drag the lake starting where the car was believed to have made impact with the water. Within the first 15 minutes of the search, the body of Tony Moore was discovered several feet East of where the car was when authorities arrived. Monorow County Coroner Alan Gurley received the body and declared his death caused by drowning. Responders on scene speculated that he probably suffered severe head trauma when the car struck the shore and launched into the air before landing and that the victim probably was either thrown or floated out of the passenger window in the seconds before Helton arrived.
Several of the responders on scene, as well as friends of Moore, noted that Moore was not a drinker and that he might have fallen asleep just before the accident. Samuel Moore spoke highly of his son when he spoke with The Packet Wednesday evening, saying, “He was the epitome of what you would want your son to be…this is all just so hard. Just such a great kid.”
Antonio “Tony” Moore was born in Columbus, Miss. to Mr. Samuel Moore and Mrs. Alicia D. Barry on August 21, 1974. He died on Sept. 27, 2012. Tony accepted Jesus Christ at an early age and was a member of Greater Mt. Zion Church. He was a faithful member and served in the Audio/Video Ministry.
Tony graduated from S.D. Lee High School in 1992. He was a graduate of Mississippi State University and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Technology.
Tony served in the United States Army. After completing basic training he was assigned to Company G 2d Battalion 46th Infantry 1st Armor Training Brigade (W1L4HG) Fort Knox, Ken. Antonio also completed a tour of duty during Iraqi Freedom, in Tikrit, Iraq with the Charlie Company, 701st Main Support Battalion. During his military career, he received an Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon (2nd Award).
Tony was employed by DYNCORP International, LLC as an Aircraft Maintenance Technician. He was an avid fan of all sports, professional and collegiate. In his spare time he enjoyed listening to jazz and playing PlayStation.
Tony leaves behind his sister Wateesha, brother Jonathan(Jon Doe) Moore, father Samuel Moore and mother Alicia Barry. Moore was also the step-son of Lewis Barry of Columbus.
His funeral service will be Saturday at 2 p.m. at Greater Mt. Zion Church on Hwy 182 East in Columbus.0