Thrill Hill ride ends in tragedy
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
A night ride on "Thrill Hill" in Hartselle ended in tragedy for a Decatur teenager on Sunday.
Patrick Haley, 16, was pronounced dead at the scene by Morgan County Corner Russ Beard following a one-vehicle accident on Moss Chapel Road at approximately 9:45 p.m. on Dec. 18. He was ejected from the rear seat of a late model Honda Civic and landed in a ditch approximately 35 feet from where the vehicle crashed into a large oak tree.
Three other occupants of the car were injured and hospitalized. The driver, Richard Bean, 19, and a front seat passenger, Doug Collinsworth, 19, both of Decatur, were airlifted from the scene by helicopter and transported to Huntsville Hospital A back seat passenger, Michael Collinsworth, 16, also of Decatur, was taken to Hartselle Medical Center by ambulance and later transferred to Huntsville Hospital. At pressstime, all were listed in stable condition.
The vehicle was headed west when it veered out of control after topping the hill. It struck a metal culvert and landed about 40 feet further down hill in a grove of oak trees.
Hartselle Police Investigator Lt. Justin Barley said the cause of the accident is still under investigation.
Rod Massey, who lives on top of the hill at 2220 Meadowview Drive, said he witnessed the accident from his porch and called 911.
"They jumped the hill coming up first and then turned around and jumped it again going down," Massey said.
Frank Jones, a former city council member who lives about 50 yards up the hill from the accident scene, said jumping the crest of the hill at high speeds has been something young drivers have practiced for 40 years or more.
"They speed up east of the Church (Moss Chapel United Methodist) and when they come by my house they're going 70 miles an hour. Apparently, it's the lift of the vehicle when it tops the hill that gives them a thrill."
He said he has witnessed at least a half dozen other accidents on the hill in recent years. Fortunately no one was killed until Sunday night.
"We petitioned city officials three or four years ago to put up a stop sign at an intersection near the top of the hill," he said. Traffic counts were made and a study was done by a traffic engineer but nothing was done. I said then it was just a matter of time before somebody gets killed. If the city doesn't do something to alleviate the now it's going to get even worse."