Highway 29 wreck claims life of Troy teen

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 26, 2001

Managing Editor

Jan. 25, 2001 10:00 AM

A 17-year-old Troy girl is dead as a result of a Thursday afternoon accident on Highway 29 eight miles from Troy.

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Lauren Nicole Austin, 17, a Pike Liberal Arts School junior was driving toward Troy on the Luverne Highway when her vehicle collided with a pickup driven by Tony Wayne Connell, 39, of Northport, Ala.

Connell was admitted into Edge Regional Medical Center Thursday afternoon after being transported by a Haynes Ambulance unit. His condition and the extent of his injuries were not available at press time, but sources reported that the injuries didn’t appear to be life threatening.

"The accident occurred when the 1999 Mercury Cougar collided with the 1998 GMC pickup truck," a spokesperson for the Alabama State Troopers Dothan office said.

The cause of the accident is under investigation by the Alabama State Troopers’ Dothan office. The lead investigator is Trooper Chris Stanton.

"At this time, further details on the cause of the accident are not being released," said the spokesperson. "The accident is under investigation."

Pike County Coroner Jerry Williams said the cause of death is still under investigation as well, but that the pronouncement was made at the scene of the accident.

"She was pronounced dead at the scene," Williams said. "The details of the accident are being investigated by the Alabama Department of Forensic Science and the Alabama State Troopers."

Austin’s vehicle was facing a eastbound on the shoulder opposite direction as workers sought to remove the wreckage from the shoulder of the road around 4 p.m. The accident occurred near Elvira’s Tin Top Barber & Style Shop.

Troopers reported that airbags in Austin’s vehicle deployed properly, but that she was not restrained by a safety belt when the collision occurred.

Austin, the daughter of Rickey Austin of Ozark and Karen Outlaw of Troy, was a member of PLAS’s cheerleading squad and high school girl’s basketball team, and an informal gathering was held at the school’s gymnasium Thursday evening.

Mourners and friends numbering around 40 paid tribute to Austin at the gathering.

Most were still in shock.

"We still don’t know what to make of all this," said one parent at the gathering. "We are all still in shock over this. It’s awful. It seems like these roads claim another one of our children every year."

Sources at the gathering reported that Austin had checked out around noon and had traveled to Luverne. She was en route to Troy when the collision occurred.

No announcement had been made at press time about whether or not school activities would be interrupted in the wake of the accident.