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Priceville police chief recovering at his home after wreck with semi
Trucker in serious condition at Huntsville ICU

By Ronnie Thomas 340-2438

PRICEVILLE — Priceville Police Chief Billy Peebles is recovering at home after totaling his patrol car in a collision with a tractor-trailer Sunday morning on Alabama 67.

A Huntsville Hospital spokeswoman said Monday that the trucker, Lawton Atkins, 53, of Poplar Grove, Ill., is in the neuro-intensive care unit in serious condition.

"We rode together to Decatur General," said Peebles, 54, who was treated and released. "The last time I saw him, his left eye was swollen shut. I overheard someone say that he had a bleeder in his brain."

Peebles said he was patrolling at about 7:30 a.m., traveling south in the left lane, and had just passed underneath Interstate 65. He said the 18-wheeler was in front of him, in the right lane.

"When I got beside him at the Raceway station, he all of a sudden made a hard 90-degree left turn, right in front of me," Peebles said. "I'm on the brakes, trying to go left with him and stay out from underneath him. He took up the whole road in an illegal U-turn."

Peebles said the left front tire of the truck slammed into the passenger side of his car. p>The chief compared the noises and smells at impact to an explosion, with windows shattering and air bags deploying, filling the car with gases.

He said his rifle on the rack behind him ended up in the front seat and the right-side air bag swallowed his computer.

As Peebles called for state troopers and an ambulance, he said, Lawton was at his window, in tears, saying, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I didn't see you."

Peebles said Lawton came off the Interstate 65 ramp and had intended to go left to Pilot Travel Center.

'Headed home'

"He also told me that someone notified him that his mother had passed away Saturday night," Peebles said. "He was headed home, and I'm sure he was distraught and preoccupied."

As for the police chief, he said doctors put stitches in the back of his head and the wreck jammed both wrists.

"I'm just hoping he's OK," Peebles said of the trucker Monday before learning his condition. "Vehicles can be replaced."

Peebles said his 2004 model patrol car rolled over to 50,000 miles Friday and he had intended on driving it for some time to come.

He said he expects to return to work by Monday.

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