By Jonathan McElvy / PublisherPresident
The warnings come from every sort of law enforcement agency in the state: During holiday weekends, buckle up and drive safely.
Demopolis Public Safety Director Jeff Manuel has preached the concept over and over again, but when he returned to work Tuesday, the acting police chief found this Memorial Day weekend to be one of the worst he remembers.
Friday night, a city of Demopolis fire truck, responding to a call for help at Cemex, collided with a car at the intersection of U.S. Highway 80 East and Rangeline Road. Two days later, on Sunday, a Demopolis police officer’s car was struck at the intersection of Cedar Avenue and Jackson Street.
In the Friday night accident, Demopolis Fire Chief George Davenport said his department received a call for assistance at Cemex. While traveling east on U.S. 80, his truck collided with a car turning from Rangeline Road onto U.S. 80.
“There’s not a lot you can say about it,” said Davenport. “It was just a collision. But the biggest thing, and the most important thing, was that no one was seriously injured in the accident.”
Davenport, who has worked with the Demopolis Fire Department for more than 22 years, said firefighters driving the truck took all the precautions they could.
“We’re 100-percent behind our guys,” Davenport said. “It’s such an unfortunate thing. This is the first time we’ve been involved in an accident since I’ve worked here.”
The Sunday accident involving a police car and two other vehicles did send at least five people — including the police officer — to the hospital. However, none of those injuries is thought to be life-threatening.
“We had an officer who was going to a shift change, and he got called to provide backup for another officer,” Manuel said. “He was headed southbound on Cedar, toward Highway 80, and the wreck occurred at the intersection of Jackson and Cedar.”
In that instance, Manuel indicated the officer slowed down for a red light, didn’t see any cars approaching, and continued through the intersection. However, a truck collided with the police car and another car was caught in the accident.
With both wrecks, Manuel said Alabama State Troopers were called to the scene to investigate.
“I didn’t think it was right for us to investigate. We wanted an independent organization to handle that,” Manuel said. “You don’t ever want to give the impression that you’re covering something up, so we called in another agency to handle the accidents.”
Manuel said it may take some time to get the reports back from the two accidents, but the obviously frustrated public safety director said he and his departments would do everything they could to ensure these types of accidents don’t happen again.
“We just got finished with a skid-car training program, and we’ll continue to look to see if there’s anything we could have done to prevent this from happening,” he said. “We just always have to make sure our guys are trained and that they’re giving proper warning.”