Woman dies in wreckBy MARK ROGERS,
A Foxworth woman died in a two-vehicle crash Friday morning hours before four cars were part of another wreck at the same location on U.S. 98 in Columbia.
Willie Nell Smith, 83, was pronounced dead at the scene around 10:15 a.m. at the intersection of Old Foxworth Road and 98 near the bridge over the Pearl River.
She was entering the highway when her Kia sedan was struck on the driver’s side door by a Dodge Ram pickup truck. The name of the other driver and more information was not readily available due to a software problem with the Columbia Police Department’s report system Tuesday.
Smith, a former seamstress with J.H. Rutter Rex Mfg., was a member of the West Columbia Church of God. Services were Tuesday at Colonial Funeral Home.
The second crash occurred hours after the first, and no major injuries were reported. However the crashes have police worried about a detour caused by two bridges being closed on Mississippi 198 near U.S. 98. The Mississippi Department of Transportation had just closed the bridges Friday, the day of the wrecks.
“I think a lot of it stems from the bridge closure and people having their routine messed up,” Police Chief Michael Kelly said. “We don’t know how long the bridge will be closed. When you have two accidents within a four-hour period of time in the same area, we need to study it. What we’ve done to be proactive is that we’ve started conversations with MDOT. We’ll meet with the MDOT engineers, myself and the mayor and those experts. We will come up with a plan. We have some suggestions and I’m sure they do, too. We will come up with a plan to prevent this from happening.”
Previously, cars coming from downtown Columbia could merge into the 98 westbound lane from 198. Now some of those cars will be making a right turn off Old Foxworth Road.
Kelly urges caution as the traffic flow has changed.
“It took some people by surprise,” he said. “I believe when the fire department was responding to one of those calls, they didn’t know that the bridge was out. I didn’t know when I was responding to the call that the bridge was out. I saw the sign saying the road was closed. I don’t think it’s anybody’s fault; it didn’t get communicated down the way it should have. We want the public to be aware that they are going to have to take a detour if you’re driving in that area. When you are crossing there at Beal’s and you’re crossing U.S. 98 westbound, it’s a dangerous intersection with the bridge being open. Traffic is coming at highway speeds, and if you’re not paying attention there could be an accident.”
Pictured Above: Columbia police and fire department officials work the scene of Friday’s fatal crash on U.S. 98 near the River Bridge. The crash was one of two at the location Friday. | Photo by Mark Rogers