Alabama truck driver killed in wreck on Highway 45 Alternate

An Alabama truck driver is killed when his tanker rig crosses busy Highway 45 Alternate, crashes through a ditch, goes airborne and rolls to a stop in the outbound driveway of the Mossy Oak shopping mall in front of the Hampton Inn and Suites
By: 
STEVE ROGERS
Staff Writer

An Alabama truck driver is killed when his tanker rig crosses busy Highway 45 Alternate, crashes through a ditch, goes airborne and rolls to a stop in the outbound driveway of the Mossy Oak shopping mall in front of the Hampton Inn and Suites.

Clay County Coroner Alvin Carter identified the victim as 49-year-old Neil Allen Hays, of Leroy, Alabama.

He was driving for Suttles Trucking based in Demopolis, Alabama. Suttles owned the truck while Dana Corp. owned the trailer, which was loaded with 45,000 pounds of what is called "black liquor," a by-product of pulp mill operations, according to West Point Fire Chief Ken Wilbourne.

Hays was on his way to Tennessee when the accident happened at about 11 a.m.

The 2004 Peterbilt truck was northbound on Highway 45 Alternate and had just crossed the railroad tracks near Lewis Odneal Drive when it veered across a northbound lane striking the rear of a 2013 Hyundai Elantra, driven by Debora Ware Poss, according to Police Chief Avery Cook.

Without slowing down, Hays continued about 100 yards across the two southbound lanes, jumping the curb and continuing another 100 yards through the drainage area before coming to rest.
"I saw him coming. He never slowed down. He lost no speed after hitting that car. I slammed on my brakes and did everything I could to stop," said Dana Partin, who recently moved to Clay County from Tennessee and was on her way to Walmart when the accident happened.

"He zipped right past me. I thought for sure he was going to run over me," continued an obviously shaken Partin, who stopped in the southbound lane literally inches from where the out-of-control truck careened in front of her.

"I thought I was gone. I got out and ran to him, but I could tell there was nothing I could do," continued Partin, the wife of a truck driver.

"The first thing I did was call my husband to make sure he is okay. He is in Idaho. He was all I could think about. That right there save me," she said, pointing to "Christ Life" sticker on the bed of her Ford Ranger pickup.

Partin and other witnesses speculated the driver had some kind of health issue that caused him to go out of control. Coroner Alvin Carter and emergency responders said they couldn't speculate on what might have caused the river to lose control.

"I don't know whether he had some kind of medical emergency. An autopsy will help determine that," Carter said, noting the autopsy could be done Tuesday or Wednesday by the state Crime Lab.
The accident remains under investigation by the West Point Police Department and the Clay County Coroner's office.

"It's tragic. You hate someone lost their life, but it could have been so much worse," said Wilbourne. "He could have hit a rail car, he could have run over more cars, he could have been carrying something flammable or really hazardous. An explosion could have taken out the hotel, Mossy Oak, and who knows."

The chemical in the tanker is hazardous to the skin and if inhaled but fortunately, none spilled. Some diesel did leak from the truck and West Point hazardous materials crews sealed if off until a clean-up crew from Birmingham can arrive to clean up that spill and offload the tanker.

That work was under way by 2 p.m. West Point fire and police are monitoring the scene until the cleanup is complete.

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