By Kim West
A two-vehicle wreck on Alabama 127 about 500 yards north of Jefferson and Elm streets in Athens injured two people and stalled north and southbound traffic for more than an hour Thursday.
Shortly before 2:30 p.m., eyewitnesses said a light-brown Dodge Dynasty sedan swerved from the southbound lane of 127 and collided head-on with a northbound tractor-trailer driven by Jackie Towe of Elkmont.
Athens Fire and Rescue Chief Tony Kirk said the driver and front passenger of the Dodge were both injured.
Kirk said firefighters had to remove the roof of the Dodge to extricate the driver and his passenger, identified by witnesses as two middle-age males. There were no other occupants in the vehicle.
Emergency officials said the driver was taken by ambulance to Athens-Limestone Hospital and then transported by medical helicopter to Huntsville Hospital.
The passenger was also airlifted to Huntsville after a MedFlight helicopter landed in a field near the accident scene, Kirk said.
Towe, 59, who was not injured, said he rapidly slowed down because he saw the Dodge drift into his lane and was able to apply his brakes and sound his horn for 2 to 3 seconds prior to impact.
“He just came over in my lane, and I got on my horn and brakes,” he said. “When we made contact, I was only going about 20 to 30 miles per hour, and I was on my brakes hard.”
Towe said he was hauling feed for Aviagen and on his way home when the collision occurred. Debris from the accident was strewn along both sides of Alabama 127, including a Halloween bucket, a tire rim and a piece of the Dodge’s dashboard.
Rufus Raybon, who lives in a residence on 127 about 200 yards south of the accident scene, said he did not see the accident but he heard it.
“The truck (driver) kept blaring his horn,” said Raybon, who was raking leaves in his front yard when the accident happened. “And then all you could hear was ‘Wham!’”
Tanner Aldridge, 24, of Florence was driving his Nissan Juke behind the tractor-trailer when the wreck happened.
Both Aldridge and Towe said they could open the driver’s side door but not the passenger-side door, and they could not get either occupant out of the crushed vehicle.
“The driver was snoring and his eyes were open, and he wasn’t talking,” Aldridge said. “His passenger was bleeding and making sounds, but he was unresponsive and squished under the dashboard.”
“Tanner came running up to the car, too, but we couldn’t get them out,” Towe said. “The passenger was really hurt but the driver wasn’t as bad. I pushed the steering wheel out the driver’s chest but the passenger was pinned up under the dash.”
Towe said there appeared to be no air bags.
Emergency officials were not able to obtain the occupants’ identification at the scene. Athens Police Chief Floyd Johnson said Thursday evening that his department would be getting the wreck victims’ names at the hospital in order to complete the accident report.