By Kim West
A familiar scene to area residents unfolded during Friday rush hour as emergency vehicles lined up where Alabama 99 bisects Elk River Mills and Fort Hampton roads and dozens of people stood in parking lots of the service stations flanking the intersection.
State troopers said a 2000 Chevy Silverado pickup truck driven by Wayland Jarrett, 59, and carrying his daughter, Christina Jarrett, 21, and Kenneth Pylant, 52, left Alabama 99 North, veered off the roadway and flipped into a steep culvert at the intersection. Troopers said Wayland Jarrett had attempted to avoid a car that braked suddenly in front of his truck.
“This is a deadly intersection. I know of at least four people that have been killed at this intersection, including one in that same ditch,” said Cleabron Pullum, an Athens resident whose appraising job causes him to travel frequently on 99. “I think guardrails need to be put up because I don’t think people realize how deep the ditches are at this intersection.”
Members of the Owens Volunteer Fire Department diverted traffic through the service station lots as onlookers peered into the steep and overgrown ditch and milled around the fringes of the accident scene.
Tracy Clemons and Marty King, who live on Elk River Mills Road, said Friday’s accident was the second in two weeks at the intersection as they pointed to road markings left by the most recent accident scene prior to Friday’s rollover.
“There are always accidents that happen here, and I’ve seen at least five or six accidents happen at this intersection in the past five years,” Clemons said. “And I hear a lot of accidents on Elk River Mills Road near Sportsman’s Park.”
“There are a lot of people that speed through this area and it can be hard to see traffic coming in both directions when you’re stopped at one of the stop signs at this intersection,” said King as he pointed to rises along both lanes of 99 near the approach to the intersection that is about 5 miles north of Athens and within sight of Owens Elementary School.
District 4 Commissioner Ben Harrison, whose district includes the 99-Elk River Mills/Fort Hampton intersection, went to the scene Friday to inspect the area where the accident occurred. He said the intersection is supervised by the Alabama Department of Transportation, which maintains control of any maintenance or enhancements made along 99. Harrison said Friday he would call an ALDOT engineer to discuss possible safety improvements.
Troopers said all three occupants — all listed as Athens residents by the accident report — were wearing seat belts and talking to first responders who summoned two MedFlight helicopters. The driver and one of his passengers were taken by helicopter while the other passenger was transported by ambulance. Troopers said all three were taken to Huntsville Hospital.
A hospital spokeswoman said Christina Jarrett was released on Saturday. Waylon Jarrett and Kenneth Pylant were not listed as patients at the hospital.
Alabama State Troopers, Athens-Limestone E.M.S. and the Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene, along with Owens VFD.