Published 2:48 am Monday, January 15, 2007
By By Kerry Whipple Bean and Lisa Tindell
Law enforcement officials are investigating a mystery after a white van went into the Conecuh River Friday night - hours after a white van left the scene of a train accident in downtown Brewton.
Escambia County Sheriff Grover Smith could not say whether the events were related, but the scene at the river capped a busy afternoon for area law enforcement officials - from the train accident to a four-car pileup caused by the traffic to the van splashing into the river.
Three witnesses told sheriff's officials they had seen a van either going into the river or floating down it, Smith said.
One driver crossing the river bridge saw a huge splash, and another spotted the van floating toward the center, he said. It appeared that water was flowing into the open windows of the van, the witness told officials. A third witness said he saw a small car leaving the scene, Smith said.
Sheriff's and rescue officials spent several hours at the riverbank Friday night, first searching the water by dragging poles from a boat and then sending divers to make sure no one was in the van.
Smith speculated no one was in the vehicle, but officials had to make sure before pulling it from the water.
Earlier in the day, Brewton police were called to the scene of a train accident downtown on St. Joseph Street. The conductor told police a white van had struck the train and spun around in the street. By the time the conductor was able to bring the train to a stop, the van disappeared, he said.
While traffic was backed up because the train was stopped, a chain reaction accident caused a four-vehicle pileup at the intersection of Forrest Avenue and Snowden Street in East Brewton. One person was transported to D.W. McMillan Memorial Hospital, but the condition of that person was not available at press time.