Army officer dies after motorcycle wrecks near Belle Meade home

Published 11:45 am Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The body of a lieutenant colonel with the Army Reserve’s 412th Theater Engineer Command in Vicksburg was found Monday, nearly 24 hours after he was last seen driving his motorcycle away from his home.

Described as “a great guy and a good officer,” Jeffrey Dryden was only a few blocks from his home at 610 Briarfield Drive when he apparently lost control of his Harley-Davidson and hit a utility pole about 2 p.m. Sunday, when his wife had last seen him.

His body and his motorcycle were found just before 11 a.m. Monday in a ravine off Holly Ridge Road, a street that intersects with Briarfield in Belle Meade subdivision off Porters Chapel Road.

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Vicksburg police Sgt. Jackie Johnson said the investigation showed Dryden was northbound on Holly Ridge and the impact threw Dryden a few feet.

“We’re trying to find out if something may have distracted him or caused him to swerve and go off the road,” he said.

Warren County Coroner Doug Huskey pronounced Dryden dead at the scene from chest trauma. No autopsy was ordered, but Huskey said he was ordering a blood toxicology, as required by law. He said Dryden was wearing a helmet.

The accident was the second motorcycle fatality in Warren County in less than a week. William Edward “Eddie” Broadwater, 55, 24 Wigwam Road, died Thursday in the 1500 block of Nine Mile Cut-off Road when his 1999 Yamaha skidded and flipped.

Dryden’s wife, Natalie, said her husband left home Sunday to help out at a benefit at the Beechwood Restaurant given by her stepbrother, Steven Whitehead, for the family of a boy who had died from an asthma attack. She did not report him missing.

She said he enjoyed riding his motorcycle, adding, “that was his stress reliever.”

“He rode a motorcycle for years,” Whitehead said. “He was one of the safest riders I’ve seen. He always wore an orange vest when he rode.”

Natalie Dryden said they were married June 25, 2009.

She said Dryden, who was born in the Atlanta area, had three children from a previous marriage, Matthew, 19, Mitchell, 16, and Kate, 13, and he was a stepfather to her daughter, Ayiana Ayala.

Dryden graduated from North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega, Ga., and was commissioned in May 1987.

He was assigned to the 412th’s headquarters in Vicksburg as its intelligence officer in March 2009, and was deployed to Afghanistan with an element of the 412th in August 2009, serving there for five months. His wife said he had served a tour in Kuwait before coming to Vicksburg.

“He was a great guy and a good officer,” said Tim Smith, a civilian worker in security with the 412th who worked under Dryden. “He was one of the most patriotic guys I’ve ever seen, and he was devoted to his family. He was one of those guys whose goal in life was to provide for his family.”

Smith said Dryden was a good supervisor who took care of his workers. He said he loved motorcycles and was an accomplished rider.

“Lt. Col. Dryden was one of the most caring, compassionate officers I have ever encountered in my 15 years of service,” said Staff Sgt. Constance Smith, who also served under him. “He was a great supervisor and also a great friend. I could literally talk to Lt. Col. Dryden about anything, professionally and personally.”

Smith said Dryden always had an open ear.

“He was full of ideas,” she said. “He showed an interest in the progression of my career. He also showed an interest and cared about the well-being of myself and my family members. He was a huge family man and loved his family dearly. He will be greatly missed by the masses.”

Dryden’s death was the third traffic-related fatality in Vicksburg this year and the seventh in Warren County.

In the city:

• Jenilyn Hall, 79, died Jan. 17 from head trauma she received in a Jan. 7 accident on Interstate 20 near Halls Ferry Road.

• Latashia Haggar, 31, 122 John Allen St., died in an accident on railroad tracks next to Old Highway 27 and North Frontage Road.

In the county:

• Christopher Lynn Jr., 19, 2217 Glass Road, died in a Feb. 22 accident on Redbone Road.

• Dudley Shane Scrimpshire, 42, of Moselle, was killed in a hit-and-run on I-20 near Bovina. Roger Dale Curtis was arrested in his death on March 16.

• Damon Keshoun Brown, 21, 5698 Gibson Road, died in a one-car accident on June 12 on 4812 Gibson Road.

• Willie L. Williams, 57, was pronounced dead at River Region Medical Center from injuries he received in a one-car accident on I-20 west of Bovina.

• Anthony Sims, 40, was killed in an accident on U.S. 80 near Oak Ridge Road.

• Kenneth Patterson, 32, 3159 Mount Alban Road, died in a one-car accident on Sept. 18 at Jeff Davis and Mallet roads.