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Alabama State Trooper Mike Colburn, Lawrence County Coroner Micah Coffey and other officials investigate the scene of an accident that killed Hazlewood High School senior Michael Langham on Friday morning at Alabama 20 and Kirby Road in Hillsboro.
Daily photo by Gary Lloyd
Alabama State Trooper Mike Colburn, Lawrence County Coroner Micah Coffey and other officials investigate the scene of an accident that killed Hazlewood High School senior Michael Langham on Friday morning at Alabama 20 and Kirby Road in Hillsboro.

Hazlewood student dies in wreck
Collision with truck on Alabama 20 in Hillsboro takes life of 2-sport star

By Kristen Bishop
and Seth Burkett 340-2443

HILLSBORO — Family members of a Hazlewood High School athlete were mourning his death Friday after his vehicle struck a state Department of Transportation truck on Alabama 20.

Michael Langham, 17, was on his way to a basketball camp at Encore in Decatur at about 10 a.m. when his car slammed into the back of a safety vehicle, said his father, Michael Johnson.

The other driver, who was not reported injured, was directing traffic using a truck with flashing lights while landscapers were tending to the median near Kirby Road in Hillsboro.

Langham's car hit the back right corner of the truck and flipped into a steep embankment, said Lawrence County Coroner Micah Coffey.

Both drivers were wearing seat belts, according to state troopers.

Coffey pronounced Langham dead at the scene at 10:45 a.m. The official cause of death was blunt force trauma to his head and chest, said Coffey.

Johnson said his son was a star athlete who was respected by his friends and adored by most women.

"Everybody loved him. All the girls loved to talk to him and be around him," he said. "As big as he was, he was just a big teddy bear."

Langham played basketball and football at Hazlewood High School and dreamed of playing football in college and eventually for the NFL, said Johnson.

As a 6-foot-1 junior, Langham started at forward on the court and tight end and defensive end on the field in 2006.

Basketball coach Shane Childress said Langham's ability and character made him an "irreplaceable" part of the team.

"We were really expecting big things out of him this year. We have a good squad coming back this year, and he was a big part of that," Childress said. "Michael was always loyal to me. He never missed a practice. If he messed up, he'd admit to his mistakes and try to do better.

"He could take over a basketball game anytime he wanted too, because he was so big and strong. He helped me. We had so many plays. He knew them all and he'd say, 'Coach, let's run this one!' and I'd say, 'That's right. Let's do that.' He'd have easily made a good coach. He really knew and understood basketball.

"You try to coach these young men about life, and he was really getting it. Sports is about life. You get knocked down, then you get up and you try again."

Childress said he grew close to Langham over years of coaching him, teaching him math, and riding to and watching games with him.

"I was looking for him last night at a ball game. He didn't miss many ball games, and I guess I'll probably be looking for him at every ball game," Childress said.

Football Coach Aaron Goode said Langham was a gifted player who had played under him since eighth grade but had shown an increased initiative as his senior year approached.

"This year he had really started to work hard," Goode said. "This summer he was one of the first people to come to the weight room during off-season training. He had decided he was going to work hard and have a rea`l good playing year."

Windy Wetzel, who taught Langham in 11th-grade English, said he had grown serious about his schoolwork and preparing for the future as his senior year approached.

"He was more mature than some young men his age, and I think he had a handle on reality and really made up his mind about what he wanted to achieve and what he was going to do to make that happen," Wetzel said.

"We all had a huge emotional investment in Michael. I'm still just in so much shock and horror, because he had so much promise."

Langham was such a respectful student and young gentleman that his female classmates weren't the only ones charmed by him, Wetzel said.

"The ladies liked him — even his teachers — because he really knew how to treat a lady," she said. "He would do anything to help me. You get a lot of back talk from teenagers sometimes, but not from Michael. He was so respectful and so charming and he was like a teddy bear."

Wetzel said senior year won't be the same for Langham's class of about 40 students.

"It's going to be very difficult this year without Michael," she said. "We're going to start out under a pall."

Goode said the same.

"That senior class is real close, and it's devastating to us," he said.

Childress said he had spoken to some of Langham's teammates and they were taking it hard.

Langham was the fourth student in that class to die in recent years, he said.

Langham is also survived by his mother, Janetta Langham, and his sister, Nadia Langham, 19.

Jackson Memory Funeral Home in Town Creek will announce arrangements.

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