Accident claims life of TSU student-athlete

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 14, 2003

For the second time in less than a year, Troy State's rodeo team has to deal with the loss of a teammate.

Junior Brandon Barbee, of Blountstown, Fla., died late Monday night when his truck collided with a tractor-trailer truck on U.S. Highway 231. Barbee was attempting to enter Hunter's Mountain Mobile Estates when the southbound truck hit the passenger side of Barbee's truck.

Freshman Matt Albritton, from Huntsville, a passenger and teammate with Barbee, was injured in the accident as well. He was airlifted to UAB and was last listed in serious condition. He underwent surgery Tuesday afternoon for internal bleeding, but according to university sources, the doctors were encouraged by his progress to that point.

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"Most of the team found out (Monday night)," new coach Cliff Toliver said. "I found out shortly after it happened and called the team. Then we went the usual route of calling the athletic director and other people with the university. They sent the support personnel out immediately."

Toliver has only been at Troy State for five days, replacing Rick Jones who resigned after the fall semester.

Despite his status as a new coach, he said he felt he knew Barbee and Albritton from the little time they spent together.

"We did some work at Cattleman's Park and they were up here," Toliver said. "I am in a tough position. I realize I did not know them as well as the students, but all I can do is let (the current team members) know that I'm here for them. They can talk to me whenever they need to."

Barbee was a criminal justice major and a member of Troy State's ROTC program and Alabama National Guard. He transferred from Chipola Junior College this fall to take part in the school's rodeo program.

Toliver said he expects to hear funeral plans today.

The rodeo teams will not practice any more this week and will travel to the funeral together. The team will resume practice Tuesday.

"We will try to get back into a routine, as much a routine as we can," Toliver said.

Last year, projected Troy State rodeo team member Patrick Smith died from injuries sustained in a competition.