Steven M. Moss was driving a gravel truck traveling north and lost control in a curve on a wet roadway, Georgia State Patrol trooper Scott Smith said.
Garrett was killed on impact at 1:18 p.m., according to coroner DeWayne Wilson.
Tommy Roberts Trucking in Armuchee, Ga., owns the gravel truck.
“His (Moss’) statement was that he observed (a) van was across the center line and he applied the brakes and the trailer began to (jackknife),” Smith said.
The truck was a 2007 Mack tractor, which was pulling an empty 28-foot dump trailer, he said.
The truck slid into the southbound lane and the van struck the left side of the trailer, Smith said.
A second truck from the company was traveling behind the truck, but the driver was not close enough to see what happened or to verify Moss’ statement, the trooper said.
“They had tried to go off the road to avoid (each other),” Smith said.
The driver of the maroon 1997 Plymouth Voyager van had “nowhere to go” as the truck blocked both lanes at impact, Smith said. The elderly man was not wearing a seatbelt, he said.
“It would not have made a difference” if Garrett had been restrained, according to Wilson, due to the severity of the impact.
After the collision, the large truck spun counter-clockwise, coming to rest diagonally along the two-lane road, more than 75 feet from the point of impact.
The speed limit posted near the curve is 35 mph.
The road, between Battlefield Parkway and Salem Road, was closed for several hours as the Georgia State Patrol investigated the accident.
The GSP Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team will return to the accident scene on Friday to take further measurements with laser equipment, trooper Andy Gideon said.
Charges are pending the outcome of the SCRT investigation, according to Smith.
The investigation will attempt to determine the speed of both vehicles and if the van was visible to the truck driver as he lost control of the empty trailer.
Both vehicles have been impounded for evidence, and investigators will pull any computerized vehicle data from the truck, according to Smith.
Garrett was returning from taking a friend and his wife to the hospital, according to nephew Daymon Garrett, a Chickamauga city council member.
The friend’s wife changed her mind by staying at the hospital, instead of returning later that day — a decision that fortunately saved her life, Daymon Garrett said.
“He would do anything for anyone,” Garrett said of his uncle, whom he described as being in good health, fit like a 60-year-old and who still rode a motorcycle despite being 81 years old.
Garrett will be buried with military honors on Friday, April 20, at 2 p.m. in Chickamauga City Cemetery.