By Kim West
A one-vehicle accident killed both occupants early Friday morning near the intersection of U.S. 72 and Glaze Road in western Limestone County.
Owens Volunteer Fire Department responded at about 4 a.m. today to a report of an enflamed pickup truck lodged in a ditch on the right side of the westbound lane of 72.
Owens Fire Chief Gary Lovell said when his department arrived on the scene, what appeared to be a Dodge pickup truck was fully engulfed in flames.
Limestone Coroner Mike West declared both occupants dead at the scene, which was between West End Chevron on the outskirts of Athens and the intersection of Glaze and 72.
The cause of death was not immediately available because West said both subjects were burned in the crash.
West said the pickup, which had an out-of-state license plate, was headed eastbound on 72 when apparently the driver lost control of the vehicle and hit a tree. He said the vehicle, which was pulling a trailer filled with tools, caught fire and came to a stop in the ditch.
“The driver of the pickup truck lost control, hit a tree and (the truck) burst into flames, and somehow the truck ended up in the ditch,” West said. “One of the subjects was in the vehicle, and the other was outside of the truck.”
West said both bodies were burned beyond recognition but believed they were likely two males. He said he did not know how one of the occupants ended up outside the vehicle despite being severely burned.
“The remains will be sent to a forensics lab, and they’ll try to find a presumptive (identification),” West said.
Lovell said traffic was closed on the westbound lane for at least an hour as emergency responders from Owens, the state Department of Transportation and state troopers cleared the scene.
With Friday’s fatalities, the 15-mile stretch of 72 between Athens and the Limestone-Lauderdale boundary has been the site of 36 fatal traffic accidents since 1994.
The accident is under investigation by the Alabama State Troopers Office, which has the pickup’s license tag. All personal identification for the victims was destroyed during the vehicle fire.
These were the fifth and sixth traffic fatalities in Limestone County this year. Two deaths resulted from single-vehicle accidents on I-65, one occurred on Interstate 565 and one on Alabama 99. West said could not verify an official total because some traffic accidents that occur in Limestone involve the victims being transported for treatment outside the county.