Injured teen wakes from coma; land owner speaks out

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 29, 2006

DEMOPOLIS &8212; The family of two teens injured in a Tuesday morning accident on Hwy. 80 awoke to good news yesterday while the man overseeing the controlled burn in a nearby field said he feels bad for what happened but does not believe he is responsible for the deaths of two local men.

Members of the Lake family were greeted by 15-year-old D&8217;Suntra Lake awoke from her coma while 18-year-old Jerry Lake continued to improve from injuries sustained in the accident.

May said the young girl &8220;squeezed hands and moved her leg.&8221;

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The older teen also returned to surgery yesterday &8220;because he had a finger basically crushed, but he has been alert and watching television,&8221; according to May.

Jerry Lake was driving himself and his younger sister to school at Sumter High in york when they became involved in a 14-vehicle accident that claimed the lives of Clark Edward Pickel, 21, and Jeremy Keye Marlowe, 27, both of Demopolis. The accident began when Pickel and Marlowe crashed into the back of a semi-truck belonging to Newell Paper Company.

According to Cpl. Chris Ellis of the Alabama Highway Patrol, the wreck was caused by low visibility thought to be due in part by smoke from a nearby field that was being cleared with a controlled burn. According to Ellis, existing fog across the roadway trapped the smoke, making it nearly impossible for motorists to see.

Brian Compton, whose family owns the land, was in charge of the controlled burn.

Compton said he does feel for the family and friends of the victims.

Compton said he followed all procedures before starting the burn to clear the land.

A spokesperson for the Alabama Forest Commission confirmed Wednesday that Compton did have the proper permits for the control burn.

John Huckabee, general manager of Newell Paper Company, identified the diver of the semi-truck as Sidney Eaton.

According to Huckabee, Eaton was carrying only two skids and was set to pick up a large load in Meridian, Miss. Eaton is semi-retired and has been driving for approximately 50 years, Huckabee said.

Early reports from those caught in the back-up of the wreck said that the owners of Busbee Trucking called the police before the wreck to warn of low visibility. Shirley Busbee, owner of three trucks who operate as Busbee Trucking, said she never called the police or 911.

Mitchell Busbee, the brother-in-law of Shirley Busbee, was driving his own truck and radioed her about one of her trucks who he thought might have been involved, she said.

Services for the two victims will be held today. Kidd-Robbins Funeral Directors is handling both services. Services for Marlowe will begin at 11 a.m. at the funeral home chapel. Services for Pickel will be held at 3:30 p.m. at Fairhaven Baptist Church.