Triple deaths mar holiday

Published 10:59 am Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The remains of a vehicle involved in a deadly crash on Brookwood Road over the holiday weekend is shown above. Three area residents were killed and a fourth injured in the crash.| Photo by Chandler Myers

Three area young people lost their lives and another was critically injured during an early-morning car accident Monday on Brookwood Drive.

Atmore police officers and emergency medical services responded to the scene of the crash, which took place at 2:09 a.m. on Labor Day, where a silver 2006 Pontiac G6 had struck two trees in the 300 block of Brookwood Drive near Huddle House.

The driver Jeremy D. McNeil, 25, of Atmore, and two back-seat passengers, Ricky Herrera, 17, of Bay Minette, and Coby J. Smith, 14, of Atmore were pronounced dead on the scene. A third passenger, Leonardo Cuenca Jr., 18, of Atmore, was transported by Atmore Ambulance to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, Fla. where he remains in critical condition. According to officials on the scene Cuenca was the only occupant of the vehicle wearing a seatbelt.

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According to the Atmore Police Department it appears McNeil was driving west on Brookwood Drive when he lost control of the vehicle while crossing a set of railroad tracks. The vehicle then left the roadway and struck the pair of trees where the car came to a rest.

Public Safety Director Glenn Carlee said a call came into the APD office prior to the accident reporting a car driving erratically in the Brookwood area and said it appeared the vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed at the time of the accident.

Carlee said officials “can’t speculate at this time” as to whether alcohol was involved in the wreck.

Escambia County High School principal Zickeyous Byrd said the mood around the school, where Herrera was a student, was certainly a somber one Tuesday morning.

“We do have counselors on hand for anyone needing to speak with them,” he said.

Byrd added Smith, who was a freshman at Flomaton High School, will also be sorely missed by ECHS students

“He had chosen to go to Flomaton this year but he had been with the same group of [Atmore] students through middle school,” he said.

Murray Johnson, Atmore Babe Ruth league president, said Smith was a special young man and an extremely talented baseball player.

“He’s played years out there for me,” Johnson said. “Every since he was seven or eight he’s played ball out there and has been on every all star team we had.”

Johnson said his impressive nature extended past the baseball field.

“He was a fine young man. He was always well mannered and respectful and I’ll always remember him as one of my boys. This was a tremendous loss.”

Johnson said there is candlelight vigil for Smith scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at the babe ruth baseball field in Tom Byrne Park located on Lindburgh Avenue.