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6-car pileup may be worst downtown wreck ever

By By Sherry Digmon
Advance Staff Writer
An accident on Nashville Avenue Monday afternoon was probably the worst in Atmore's history.
Six vehicles were involved in the accident at 3:44 p.m. that sent four people to the hospital.
Involved were Lillie Mae Manassa of Bay Minette, driving a 1984 Ford Ranger pick-up; Theresa M. Fountain of Atmore, driving a 1995 Isuzu Rodeo; Linda E. Milam of Atmore, driving a 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass; Pauline V. Stuart of Bay Minette, driving a 1999 Buick Century; Heather S. Haskew of Flomaton, driving a 1994 Toyota Tercel; and Beverly B. Harris of Atmore, driving a 1989 Chrysler Fairmont. None of the vehicles had passengers.
Manassa, Fountain and Milam were transported to Atmore Community Hospital by Atmore Ambulance. Harris also went to the hospital.
Manassa was transported to Baptist Hospital in Pensacola by BaptistFlight at 1:31 a.m., Tuesday. However, Tuesday afternoon, she was not on the hospital's patient list, according to a hospital spokesperson.
Fountain, Milam and Harris were treated and released at ACH.
Atmore Police Chief Danny McKinley said Officer Chris Pruitt was on West Road, off Highway 31 near the country club, when someone flagged him down to report a driver on Highway 31 driving fast and running people off the road.
When Pruitt turned onto 31, cars started pulling off the road to let him pass, McKinley said, even though he didn't have his lights activated.
According to witnesses, Manassa was driving at an extremely high rate of speed and very erratically.
Pruitt headed toward Atmore, looking for the Ford Ranger. Someone told McKinley later that Pruitt was chasing Manassa, but that was not true he said. Pruitt was headed toward Atmore when he heard the call over the radio that the accident had happened.
Atmore police found out later that Baldwin County had received a call reporting the unauthorized use of a vehicle. From information McKinley received, a Bay Minette woman had taken a pick up truck, and, according to her family members, she had a history of mental problems.
McKinley said when Manassa approached the traffic light at Highway 31 and Trammell, she went into the oncoming lane to go around the cars in the turn lane and the right lane. She was eastbound in the westbound lane.
Fountain was making a left turn from Nashville to north Trammell, and just as she began to turn, her Isuzu was struck by the Ranger as Manassa attempted to pass her. Fountain told police that Manassa's truck left the ground and flipped end over end above several cars before falling on Milam's Cutlass.
Manassa's truck, on its side at this time, slid forward from Milam's car and struck Stuart's Century and Haskew's Tercel, pushing them into each other.
Manassa's truck then slid into the turn lane where it came to rest on its side, simultaneously striking Harris's Fairmont in the rear.
According to the police report, Manassa exited the Ranger through the rear window and attempted to flee the scene. However, she was stopped by witnesses.
Prior to impact, Milam, Stuart and Haskew were all stopped in traffic eastbound on Nashville.
A family member, who owns the Ranger, told police that Manassa suffers from mental illness and had not received necessary medication.
According to the police report, Manassa would not speak to police.
Officers had their hands full as onlookers flocked to the scene. At adjacent intersections, officers tried to keep the traffic moving, a difficult task as vehicles slowed and in some cases almost stopped.
Some people parked near the scene and walked through the wreckage.