Hancock County State's Attorney dies in Saturday night crash in Dade County, Ga.

James Drozdz
Posted: Dec. 29, 2013 9:43 pm Updated: Jan. 12, 2014 10:15 pm
Herald-Whig Staff Writer

CARTHAGE, Ill. — Hancock County State’s Attorney James Drozdz died in a traffic accident Saturday night in Dade County, Ga.

Hancock County Sheriff Scott Bentzinger said Drozdz, 53, of Hamilton, also worked for Dot Foods of Mount Sterling and was driving a truck for the company. Georgia State Police told WTVC-TV in Chattanooga, Tenn., that a tractor trailer crashed about 11:15 p.m. Saturday at the eastbound entrance ramp to Interstate 24 in Dade County.

Investigating officers said Drozdz was traveling on Ga. 299 at Wildwood — in the northwest portion of Georgia that borders Tennessee and Alabama — when he attempted to make a left turn onto the entrance ramp. The vehicle left the road and struck an embankment, police said.

Drozdz was pronounced dead at the scene at 1 a.m. Sunday. The Printy Funeral Home in Carthage is handling arrangements.

Dade County Coroner Johnny Gray said Monday that an autopsy was performed Sunday and results were pending the outcome of toxicology tests, which may take two to three months.

Gray said Drozdz had just finished an 11-hour break and was northbound making a left turn onto the entrance ramp of I-24 when the tractor-trailer ran off the road at a speed of 1 to 3 miles per hour. Gray said Drozdz suffered no visible injuries.

Bentzinger said he was notified about the crash about 11:30 p.m.

“He was a super, super guy,” Bentzinger said. “He had a dedicated career in law enforcement. I worked very closely with him and I’m going to miss him.”

Drozdz was elected as the county’s state’s attorney in November 2004 when he defeated incumbent Karen Andrews. He ran unopposed in re-election bids in 2008 and 2012.

Hancock County Board Chairman Cary Gray said Assistant State’s Attorney Brian Hunter will take over the office until a county appoints a new state’s attorney. Gray said that whoever is appointed will serve until the November 2014 election when a new state’s attorney will be elected.

Drozdz had nearly 30 years experience in the criminal justice system, including work as an assistant state’s attorney, teaching at Western Illinois University in Macomb and the Illinois Police Academy, and in an administrative position with the Illinois State Police critical incident response command in Springfield. He also served as a volunteer firefighter in Hamilton.

This story has been updated since its original posting Sunday, Dec. 29.