Massive manhunt under way

Published 10:21 pm Saturday, January 10, 2009

A manhunt was under way Saturday night for a man who fled the scene of an accident that sent a Mobile couple to the hospital with critical injuries.

The two-car crash occurred about 1:15 p.m. on U.S. 231 South at the intersection of County Road 3310.

According to witnesses at the scene, the driver of a white Chevrolet Lumina ran off through the woods towards the Pocosin Road after just minutes after his vehicle collided with another.

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“He made a phone call, then took off through those woods,” said Robert Sankey, who had been working with his crew on County Road 3310. Sankey said they saw the vehicle “going about 100 miles per hour” along the County Road just seconds before it crashed into a Nissan Altima traveling south on U.S. 231.

“We tried to stop him, to get him to slow down, but there was no way,” Sankey said. “Look, there aren’t even any tire marks. He never slowed down.”

The Chevrolet hit the passenger side of the Altima, driven by 63-year-old Henry Lee Whitaker of Mobile, and sent it spinning in the highway.

“They were spinning when we got here,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jamie Moreno, who was traveling with two other Marines back to their unit in Montgomery. “It was a hard impact.”

The Marines stopped to help Whitaker and his wife, Joann, who was a passenger in the vehicle. “The driver was unconscious and he came to, but went unconscious again,” Moreno said.

As they were working, Sgt. John McKinney noticed smoke coming from the Altima. “Sgt. McKinney called the fire,” Moreno said. “And he pulled the woman passenger out.”

George Blue, who also witnessed the wreck, pulled the driver from the vehicle. “They were hurt pretty badly,” he said.

Sources with the Alabama State Troopers said both the Whitakers had sustained critical injuries. They were taken by ambulance to Troy Regional Medical Center and then transferred by helicopter to Baptist South in Montgomery.

Nearly 20 law enforcement officers, led by the Traffic Homicide Division of the Alabama State Troopers, were conducting what one source described as a “massive” manhunt for the unidentified suspect.

Troopers were asking anyone with information about the accident to contact the Alabama State Trooper post in Dothan.

The accident was under investigation by the Alabama State Troopers.

Click here for pictures from the wreck.