SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) _ Soldier Tommie Bates, killed in an Army accident in Saudi Arabia last week, was a promising poet, playwright and actor. He was also the star witness in a murder case, authorities say.
″He was an extremely talented individual,″ said Carl Peck, director of entertainment at Fort Stewart, where Bates was based and performed in plays.
″The other night I was watching the Emmy Awards and I told my wife, how unfortunate it is that these people will never know the talent that was lost,″ he said.
Bates, 27, was killed Sept. 14 when his vehicle left a roadway and crashed in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, the Army said. He is among more than a dozen in the U.S. military to die in accidents related to the buildup of forces in the Persian Gulf.
The first lieutenant from Coventry, R.I., witnessed a barroom shooting in Savannah earlier this year and prosecutors hoped he would testify in the trial of Charles Dale Hosick Jr. of Statesboro.
Bates was the only person police knew got a good look at the gunman. A sketch from Bates’ description was used to arrest Hosick in Statesboro a week after the April 23 shooting of a California businessman.
″He was our main witness,″ police Maj. James E. Weaver said of Bates.
Bates published 12 plays and a short story, spoke Greek fluently and ran marathons, recalled Melissa Fahrni, public affairs assistant at Fort Stewart.
He was named two years ago as one of America’s best young poets by the American Poetry Association. A month ago, he won an acting award for an Army theatrical production.
Bates graduated in 1986 from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., with a literature degree. He came to Fort Stewart in 1988 and quickly got involved in the arts.
″I saw him last summer in (a fort production of) ’Come Blow Your Horn,‴ Peck said. ″He was so professional he could have been on the Broadway stage.″
In May, Bates had the lead role in a production of ″The Lady’s Not For Burning″ and won the 1990 best actor award from FORSCOM, the Army Forces Command, which recognizes the best in arts productions at 29 stateside installations.