Three killed in Labor Day wreck

Published 10:30 pm Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Three area young people lost their lives and another was critically injured during an early-morning car accident Monday in Atmore.

Atmore police officers and emergency medical services responded to the scene of the crash, which took place at 2:09 a.m. on Labor Day, where a silver 2006 Pontiac G6 had struck two trees in the 300 block of Brookwood Drive near Huddle House.

The driver, Jeremy D. McNeil, 25, of Atmore, and two back-seat passengers, Ricky Herrera, 17, of Bay Minette, and Coby J. Smith, 14, of Atmore were pronounced dead on the scene. A third passenger, Leonardo Cuenca Jr., 18, of Atmore, was transported by Atmore Ambulance to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, Fla., where he remained in critical condition as of Tuesday. According to officials on the scene, Cuenca was the only occupant of the vehicle wearing a seatbelt.

Atmore police said it appeared McNeil was driving west on Brookwood Drive when he lost control of the vehicle while crossing a set of railroad tracks. The vehicle then left the roadway and struck the pair of trees, where the car came to a rest.

Public Safety Director Glenn Carlee said a call came into the APD office prior to the accident reporting a car driving erratically in the Brookwood area. Carlee said it appeared the vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed at the time of the accident.

Carlee said officials “can’t speculate at this time” as to whether alcohol was involved in the wreck.

Escambia County High School principal Zickeyous Byrd said the mood around the school, where Herrera was a student, was certainly a somber one Tuesday morning.

“We do have counselors on hand for anyone needing to speak with them,” he said.

Byrd added Smith, who was a freshman at Flomaton High School, will also be sorely missed by ECHS students.

“He had chosen to go to Flomaton this year but he had been with the same group of (Atmore) students through middle school,” he said.

Although no concrete plans for a memorial service for either student have been set as of yet, Byrd said a determination would be made after speaking with students and the parents of the victims.