Moments after his family’s Mercedes sedan became part of chain-reaction collisions on Monday, Charles Peavy ran to a burning 1998 Mazda pickup truck and helped extricate the driver on the side of Interstate 65. The collision occurred in northbound lanes, about 9 miles south of Athens.
Peavy, 18, who was traveling with his mother, Lisa Jacobson, 48, and his sister, Laura, 20, to Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tenn., said the truck, which had two male occupants, was completely engulfed in flames.
The truck bed of the white Mazda, which had a burned-out cab and charred body, had been severely crumpled by the collision. Debris from other vehicles, including a fender and a tire, lay nearby amid the tall yellow grass along the interstate.
“(The passenger) was already out and trying to help the other because the driver’s foot was stuck a little bit,” said Peavy, a senior at Foley High School. “We were able to get him out, and he was bleeding really bad.”
Roger Manuel, 64, of Satellite Beach, Fla., was the driver of the Mazda. He and his passenger, Craig Manuel, 23, of Satellite Beach, were both injured and wearing seatbelts, said the Alabama State Troopers Office in Decatur.
The Peavys were among several stranded motorists waiting for three wrecker services to haul away their damaged vehicles. Two separate wrecks, within 200 yards and 20 minutes of each other, impacted a camper, a sport utility vehicle, two sedans and four pickup trucks, some of which were pulling trailers.
“I think the (second wreck) started when one truck hit one car, and it started spinning out,” said Laura Peavy, a Cumberland junior. “The red Envoy hit us on the side, and it got hit on all four sides (by other vehicles).”
The accidents occurred about 1 mile south of Exit 347 at Huntsville-Brownsferry Road in southern Limestone County.
Emergency officials at the scene said the first wreck occurred at 11:50 a.m. and involved a camper and a truck hauling a trailer.
In the first wreck, a 1999 Ford’s driver, Keith Clegg, 50, of Rudyard, Mich., was not injured. The other driver of a 2005 Chevrolet’s driver, Damon Hassell, 33, of Goodlettsville, Tenn., was injured and wearing a seatbelt.
The second wreck happened at 12:10 p.m. and involved six vehicles, according to state troopers.
Driving a 2011 Ford truck, Mitchell Strang, 48, of Marion, Ill., was not injured. His passenger, Josie Strang, 10, of Marion, Ill., was injured and not wearing a seatbelt.
The following were also involved but not injured: Robert Terhune, 71, of Indianapolis, Ind., driver of a maroon 2007 GMC Envoy SUV; Stanley Davis, 58, of Athens, driver of a 2012 white Nissan sedan; and Tommy Nall, 47, of Spanish Fort, driver of a white 2012 Chevrolet truck.
Interstate traffic stalled in both northbound lanes for an hour. One lane started moving by 1:30 p.m. but motorists just north of Exit 340 at I-565, were still stuck in a logjam at 1:45 p.m. Diverted traffic to U.S. 31 via Alabama 20 also experienced delays, with only one lane available on 31 due to ongoing road maintenance.
Units from Tanner Volunteer Fire Department and Athens Fire and Rescue reported to the accident scene, along with the Limestone County Sheriff’s Department, Alabama Department of Transportation and state troopers.
Two people were transported by ambulance to Athens-Limestone Hospital. An ALH supervisor declined to specify which accident victims were treated in the emergency room, since neither was admitted.
She said one person was treated and released, while the other was transferred to Huntsville Hospital. A hospital spokeswoman for Huntsville Hospital said Roger Manuel was being treated in the ER as of Monday evening.