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WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 17, 2007
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A roll of steel weighing more than 40,000 pounds lies in front of Betty Collins' home on Alabama 20 near Hillsboro after a tractor-trailer truck, behind wrecker, overturned, sending its cargo flying.
Daily photo by Gary Lloyd
A roll of steel weighing more than 40,000 pounds lies in front of Betty Collins' home on Alabama 20 near Hillsboro after a tractor-trailer truck, behind wrecker, overturned, sending its cargo flying.

Steel coil almost hits home
Close call on Alabama 20 near Hillsboro another scare for
long-time homeowner

By Seth Burkett
sburkett@decaturdaily.com 340-2355

HILLSBORO — Betty Collins had just settled into her recliner to watch "The Young and the Restless" on Tuesday when she heard a loud noise from the highway that runs past her house.

Turning to look out the living room window, Collins witnessed a terrifying sight — a westbound flatbed overturning on Alabama 20.

Moments later, a steel coil that had been aboard the truck rolled into her yard and toward her house, she said.

The coil, which weighed more than 40,000 pounds, left divots in Collins' yard and a neighboring driveway. Spring-like, the unbound coil turned into a massive metal mess.

"Scared? I couldn't move," said Collins, 77, who is recovering from surgery and uses a walker to get around.

"I was thinking, 'What if it comes through that window?' I didn't know if it was going to come on in or not, but I needed to move and couldn't. I was just frozen in this chair," she said.

The steel behemoth stopped beside a stump mere feet from Collins' front window.

Collins said many large trucks have wrecked near her residence in the 17600 block of Alabama 20, about two miles east of Hillsboro, in the 55 years she has lived there.

About 10 years ago, a truck struck the Collins Fireworks store, which her son operates next door, she said. Another wreck resulted in a chemical spill, and yet another strewed crushed aluminum everywhere, she said. Collins said she keeps expecting a truck to run off the road and hit the house.

Reinforced concerns

So far, she has been fortunate, but Tuesday's experience only reinforced her concerns.

As Barnhart Crane and Rigging Co. employees cut away the unrolled metal and prepared to hoist the remainder of the coil from her yard, Collins eyed the crane warily.

"Well, I hope that beast that they're fooling with now doesn't come in here," she said.

State troopers said the truck's driver, Quinton Bowen, 50, of Memphis, was not injured in the 11:20 a.m. accident. No other vehicles were involved.

Troopers did not say what might have caused the accident. The origin of the steel coil was not immediately available.

With many trucks loading steel coils near Alabama 20 in Decatur, the city has dealt repeatedly with the problems that sometimes cause the coils to pop loose, damaging roadways and endangering lives.

Dropped steel coils have been particularly problematic at Sixth Avenue Northeast and Wilson Street, where U.S. 31 and Alabama 20 West connect in a 90-degree turn at the foot of Hudson Memorial Bridge. In a 2005, about six tractor-trailers lost their loads there, according to Decatur police.

Police say most of the accidents result from either improperly securing the coils or driving too fast.

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