Greenwood officials prioritizing retention ponds

Sgt. Herkimiah Wimbush died Tuesday after driving into a retention pond.

Kris Kirschner/Eyewitness News

Greenwood - A retention pond where a national guardsman lost his life was considered a safety priority by city officials months before the accident.

Sgt. Herkimiah Wimbush, 36, died Tuesday after he drove his car into the pond at a Greenwood business park near I-65 and Main Street.

The problem, which city officials say they can't fix, is that the road comes to a "T" and the retention pond across the street has no guardrail, fence or sign warning drivers. The intersection was the scene of at least two other accidents in the past year.

The day after Wimbush's accident, curious drivers checked out the site of the crash.

"Pretty much a dead end road. You go any further, you end up in the pond," said one passerby.

Police say Wimbush, an Iraq War veteran stationed at Camp Atterbury, missed the stop sign and ran straight into the pond. Divers got him out of the water, but attempts to revive him failed.

Along with police, the National Guard is investigating what happened and whether the safety of the intersection played a role.

"Would a guardrail help? Probably," said Greenwood Mayor Charles Henderson.

According to Henderson and City Engineer Mark Richards, the retention pond where the accident happened is among a list of 30 earmarked by the city for safety upgrades.

"This has been identified as a priority," Richards said.

The intersection is one of seven flagged as high priorities that have been compiled on a map drawn 10 months ago.

"Those ponds that have had vehicles that entered the pond for some reason," Richards said.

The plan is to install guardrails in front of the ponds.

"We're now looking, and have been for a couple months, 'How can we get the funding to do that?'," said Henderson.

While there are already plans in place to install a guardrail as far as signage, something to indicate the road comes to a "T", that's up to the city. Right now, there are no plans to do that, even though a similar sign is posted at the other end of the same street.

"When it's open like that, why wouldn't you want a sign there?" asked a passerby.

Sometimes you wonder, when are people responsible for themselves?" Henderson said.

Investigators still don't know what led to the crash Tuesday. The city maintains it is working to provide a buffer zone to keep even distracted drivers on the road and out of the water.

There is an ordinance in place in the city of Greenwood that requires property owners to install guardrails around retention ponds. The pond in question, however, was put in before that ordinance took effect.

The city says it will cost about $75,000 to get the guardrails for the seven priority ponds. Their next chance to request federal funds doesn't come until October.