Trucker says he called 911

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 4, 2006

DEMOPOLIS &8212; At least two drivers who passed through the smoked-fill area where a 14-vehicle accident claimed the lives of two area men called authorities to warn of low visibility.

Mitchell Busbee said he passed through the area on a delivery and called 911 at 5:47 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 26, to warn them that he could not see.

Busbee, who was coming from Rock-Tenn headed east, said he was told &8220;they would get someone out there.&8221;

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Busbee said he went through the area at about 4:45 a.m. to pick up the load &8220;and it wasn&8217;t really that bad when I was out there. When I came back, it had no vision at all.&8221;

Keith Shuttlesworth said Monday he called the police department when he arrived to work at approximately 5:45 a.m.

Shuttlesworth said he called directly to the Demopolis Police Department. According to Shuttlesworth, he was told that they &8220;had already received a call from a trucker.&8221;

Public Safety Director Jeff Manuel said all calls at that time of morning would have been directed to the 911 dispatcher.

Sheriff Jesse Langley said he was aware of calls prior to the accident but was not sure of how many. He said dispatchers followed normal procedures by notifying the proper authorities.

Cpl. Chris Ellis, a spokesperson for the Alabama Highway Patrol, could not confirm whether or not his agency was contacted about the report.

Melissa Hubbard, who is handling the investigative reports for the Highway Patrol, did not return phone calls.

Betty Bates, with the Jefferson Volunteer Fire Department, said the sheriff&8217;s office contacted her just before 6 a.m. She said that was the second time in less than 24 hours that her department responded to a call at the location of the field.

Bates said the department has responded to several permitted fires that got out of control. She said drought conditions are to blame but said this report could get more scrutiny.